Unknown Domain

The falsitude of the RepRap promise

The RepRap 3D printer is a community home brew project, started by makers to design and manufacture a self replicating machine. A machine that is capable of manufacturing all of it’s constituent parts and assembling them, the definition on Wikipedia even states that the machine should be capable of gathering it’s own resources such as energy and materials to manufacture from.

A lot of people get carried away with the idea that a RepRap 3D printer is every going to be capable of even assisted total self replication. What we are talking about here is the idea that the 3D printer can not only produce it’s own plastic brackets, fastenings, fixings, and other structural parts, something it is pretty much capable of doing right now. But also a machine that can print all the flexible, and heat resistant parts too.

It gets even more ludicrous when you expand this idea to the motors made of metal, wires and even the electronic circuit boards. It is not that there aren’t machines capable of doing each of these tasks but that it might ever be possible for a machine to make these parts by it’s self. The next level of ludicrosity is the idea that it could assemble it’s self, the final nail in the coffin for this idea is that it could gather all it’s own resources and be a device that would be useful at doing other things than making more of it’s self.

All this aside the RepRap printer once assembled and tweaked is fully capable of manufacturing the plastic parts of it’s self, and with some clever design you can avoid a lot of the metal parts and use plastic ones, even possibly using printed fixings, however it is no where near capable of producing circuit boards, although some people have modified the machine to work like a milling machine to mill the PCB designs out of copper boards.

It’s not that I don’t like the idea, nor that I don’t recognise that the definition and goals are different but that the hype around this OSHW project makes it sound like we’re on the verge of machines that can print everything bar the kitchen sink and in their spare time they just print out spare 3D printers.

Image credits: RepRap ‘Pythagoras’ – Zach Hoeken, RepRap – Mini Mendel – John Abella, I’m finally getting some good quality on my RepRap now that I finally switched to skeinforge – Tony BuserMakerGear Prusa Mendel RepRap (In Progress) – Pete Prodoehl

p.s. I am fully aware that both falsitude and ludicrosity are not words, but I am fairly sure people can figure out what they mean if they were ‘official’ words.