Self Replicating Printer

By Dave

Creating a device that can create copies of itself is something that many scientists have been working towards. Once you pair a self replicating device with programming to look for improvements, it opens up an interesting door to evolving machines.

You can find the development of this technology happening at the University of Bath in the UK where RepRap, or the self replicating rapid prototyper could replace other 3D printers currently on the market.

As a child, I always assumed this type of technology would be in my home by now, but the current generation of 3D printers cost around $25,000 and are still used primarily by big business industry to create parts for aircraft engines, spaceships and hearing aids.

From New Scientist:

Now Adrian Bowyer hopes to change that by making the first 3D printer capable of fabricating copies of itself, as well as a wealth of everyday objects. He reasons that prices would plummet to around $500 if every machine was capable of building hundreds more at no cost beyond that of the raw materials.

Better still, the machines could evolve to be more efficient and develop new capabilities, says Bowyer. Once he has the software to guide the self-replicating process, he plans to make it freely available online, allowing users to contribute improvements, just like the open-source Linux computer operating system, he says.

Personally, I am very excited by the development work being put into this technology. With the proper mix of software and hardware, we can probably expect the ability to “print” vases for flowers, cups, and other small objects with the first consumer level 3D printer, but even more interesting to me is the self replication part as this technology made many times smaller could be used for a variety of different uses. I am sure my imagination can’t even do this technology justice on where society will direct it.

What would you use a consumer level 3D printer for? What do you think of the idea of a machine that can create copies of itself? Let me know in the comments below.

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