RepRap - Open Source Machine 'Prints' 3-D Objects, Including Copies Of Itself
    By News Staff | June 3rd 2008 11:29 PM | 25 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Dr Adrian Bowyer, a senior lecturer in engineering in the Faculty of Engineering & Design at the University of Bath, has created RepRap, an open source prototype machine that has succeeded in making a duplicate of itself - by printing its own parts and building a clone.

    RepRap is short for replicating rapid-prototyper. RepRap employs a technique called ‘additive fabrication’. The machine works a bit like a printer, but rather than squirting ink onto paper, it puts down thin layers of molten plastic which solidify. These layers are built up to make useful three-dimensional (3D) objects.

    RepRap has, so far, been capable of making every day plastic goods such as door handles, sandals and coat hooks. Now, the machine has also succeeded in copying all its own 3D-printed parts.

    These parts have been printed and assembled by RepRap team member Vik Olliver in Auckland, New Zealand, into a new RepRap machine that can replicate the same set of parts for yet another RepRap machine and so on ad infinitum. While 3D printers have been available commercially for about 25 years, RepRap is the first that can essentially print itself.

    The machine will be exhibited publicly at the Cheltenham Science Festival (4-8 June 2008).

    Dr Bowyer said: “These days, most people in the developed world run a professional-quality print works, photographic lab and CD-pressing plant in their own house, all courtesy of their home PC. Why shouldn't they also run their own desktop factory capable of making many of the things they presently buy in shops, too?

    “The possibilities are endless. Now, people can make exactly what they want. If the design of an existing object does not quite suit their needs, they can easily redesign it on their PC and print that out, instead of making do with a mass-produced second-best design from the shops. They can also print out extra RepRap printers to give to their friends. Then those friends can make what they want too.”

    Recently, Chris DiBona, Open Source Programs Manage at Google Inc, encouraged people to: "Think of RepRap as a China on your desktop."

    Sir James Dyson, Chief Executive of the Dyson Group, said: “RepRap is a different, revolutionary way of approaching invention. It could allow people to change the ergonomics of a design to their own specific needs.”

    Dr Bowyer hopes people will come to the Cheltenham Science Festival and see both the 'parent' and the 'child' RepRap machines in action for the first time together.

    Adrian Bowyer (left) and Vik Olliver (right) with a parent RepRap machine, made on a conventional rapid prototyper, and the first complete working child RepRap machine, made by the RepRap on the left. The child machine made its first successful grandchild part at 14:00 hours UTC on 29 May 2008 at Bath University in the UK, a few minutes after it was assembled.

    "RepRap is the most enjoyable research project I've ever run," he said. "And without the many talented and selfless volunteers the RepRap project has all round the world, it would have never succeeded so quickly."

    Complete plans for the prototype RepRap 3D printer and detailed tutorials to aid motivated amateurs (and professionals) in assembling one are available to everyone free at the RepRap website (details below). The materials, plus the minority of parts that the machine cannot print, cost about £300. All those non-printed parts can be bought at hardware shops or from online stores.

    Adrian and several of the other Reprap team members will be available to answer questions and exhibit the parent and child Darwin printers in operation at the Cheltenham Science Festival on 4 – 8 June 2008.


    "Now, the machine has also succeeded in copying all its own 3D-printed parts."

    There is an important qualification in that sentence: "all its own 3D-PRINTED parts."

    In other words, not the bars. Not the wires, not the belt(s).

    To look at it, I wouldn't call those the majority of the machine. And while the rest may be commercially available, that's not always convenient.

    My point is just that we needn't fear our RepRap overlords anytime soon.

    Just as an aside, it is not correct to point at one and say, "Parent" and the other and say, "Child" when in fact printing all of your parts is NOT the same as being created AND assembled by the parent.
    Merely creating a bunch of parts does not qualify one for having created a working, functioning duplicate of one's self.

    So, no, this article is titled incorrectly just to encourage readership. This machine does not print copies of itself, it prints copies of a bunch of parts which could be used to create another machine like it, if you then added a bunch of other bits as the previous poster points out.

    Yeah, and lets not forget this thing requires a computer to operate it, I don't think it will be printing out a PC anytime soon.

    I believe you guys are missing the point. It's a 3d printer that doesn't cost 10,000 dollars. That is mindblowing.

    Thats true, it's very affordable at $600. I'm already thinking about buying one. But what to make with it?

    The *article* is missing the point. It doesnt say "cheap 3D printer" ... but "replicating" all over it.

    Perhaps if you want to attract the right audience you should stick to the facts.

    Have you ever seen this website:

    They've been producing a 3D printer/fab that even takes multiple sources of input materials to produce a variety of parts and products.

    I especially like the Cheese-whiz input material (processed cheese spread) to make eatable devices.

    What is different or even unique about this device as opposed to the Fab@Home device? It certainly isn't open source or even being cheap either. A nice experiment worthy of a high school science fair.

    It looks like they've cut the cost a little bit further, perhaps, than Fab@Home, but they've made some compromises along the way as well.

    That should be

    Come on, guys -- it's still pretty impressive.

    I think it's cool that the prototype could create the final version eventually. I hope that printing objects becomes as accessible as burning cds one day. Now if only we could use plastic bags as printing material.

    Now I wont have to go into those seedy sex shops.

    Question to anyone in the know: are the fumes from the molten plastic toxic?

    Okay, this is really annoying. Anyone else having trouble seeing the letters of the Captcha Validation?

    Anyone else having trouble seeing the letters of the Captcha Validation?

    Obviously that post was made by the same person who said this:

    Now I wont have to go into those seedy sex shops.

    Anyone else having trouble seeing the letters of the Captcha Validation?

    Obviously that post was made by the same person who said this:

    Now I wont have to go into those seedy sex shops.

    Oh man! I am a furniture maker by hobby...extended hobby. I can't draw to save my life. This thing makes my pants go crazy. Where do I sign up?

    It didn't make many of the parts, such as the metal rods.

    Note that the first machine to make a COMPLETE copy of itself (including ALL parts) was the milling machine 100 years ago.

    Think of all the miniatures you could make for roleplaying games or war games.

    I do, and so do Games Workshop, who'll start producing cheap pap in the near future with 3D print technology, worse than the overpriced pap they dish out now.

    Miniatures should always be sculpted by hand. If you want to have that kind of tat then buy those £1 bags of plastic soldiers they sell in cheap toy shops.

    The key to this thing is that it can be used to create improved versions of itself. This is akin to man chipping rocks for the first time, and then using those rocks to chip other rocks, eventually building more sophisticated tools.

    Sure, it doesn't do any assembly, YET. And sure, it may only work on one input material, FOR NOW... and sure, SOME of its parts need to be bought, FOR NOW. Yes, it requires a computer to run it. But once its fabrication quality gets high enough quality, it should be able to build a rudimentary circuit to do all of its thinking.

    Use this thing to make successive generations with more custom-made parts, swap out some of the bought ones for more versatile bought parts temporarily (like to print with multiple input sources.) Before you know it, the whole thing WILL be printable.

    It's a work in progress, and a learning experience for all those involved I'm sure. When man first crafted a spear point, I doubt he could have imagined it would lead to nuclear tipped ballistic missiles.

    The article and headline are a bit sensational though. And this is realllllly old news as far as internet headlines go. Wake me when it's creating a full-blown working copy from scratch on its own. And then mail me one. ;-)

    SkyNet Here We Come!!!

    One question... have any of you ever SEEN the stuff you can make with a Fab@Home? The "resolution" of the finished product is poor at best... most of what I've seen looks like someone squirted it out of a tube of form-a-gasket by hand. There is NOTHING in the lot of images from the Fab@Home website that I would even charitably call "ready-to use"... more like rough shapes waiting to be polished smooth by hand. Now if this machine can actually make parts with enough detail that they can be used as manufactured AND still keeps the price tag below $600, THAT is a GREAT leap ahead.

    Pizza is nature's way of controlling the anchovy population.

    This is quite an achievement, and I think it's particularly admirable that Dr. Bowyer and his team are allowing the free distribution of this technology.
    Wow! So it's finally true and possible, I admit that 3D printing caught my by surprise, I never expected to see it that early. So, does this mean we enter a new printing era? If not, I hope that printer will lead us there.
    I think that HP laser jet printers will soon try to develop such a technology too. My only concern is the price that such a device will have on the market... It will probably be only a product for rich people... My hopes are that this won't happen.
    I wonder when the first von neumann machines will become possible - this seems like a logical first step.