If you've been reading some of my posts over the past few months you know of my ongoing asking of the question What If The Impossible Isn't? or WITII? as I've been abreviating it. This arose from my previous observation that we are living in a world of exponential change and the purpose of this theme of WITII? is to show that much, perhaps even most of what we assume to be impossible is actually now, or is about to be, possible. And possible in this context is not so much that something has just been invented or accomplished in some research laboratory. Possible in my the WITII? context is about products, services and capabilities that are available, affordable, accessible and usable for "the rest of us".
However as fun and exciting as these developments are, one of the most profound changes which 3D printers are ushering in is that of machines which can self replicate. Simply put, you can buy a 3D printer which can "print" a copy of itself (some assembly required).
Pause and think about that for a minute ...............
As per the video and the RepRap site:
Talk about exponential rates of change! This not only affects the rate of change for making these kinds of machines, it equally changes things like business models, sharing of designs and actual parts and machines.
“ This 3D printer builds the parts up in layers of plastic. This technology already exists, but the cheapest commercial machine would cost you about €30,000. And it isn't even designed so that it can make itself. So what the RepRap team are doing is to develop and to give away the designs for a much cheaper machine with the novel capability of being able to self-copy (material costs are about €350).
Not counting nuts and bolts RepRap can make 50% of its parts; the other parts are designed to be cheaply available everywhere.That way it's accessible to small communities in the developing world as well as individuals in the developed world. Following the principles of the Free Software Movement we are distributing the RepRap machine at no cost to everyone under the GNU General Public Licence. So, if you have a RepRap machineyou can use it to make another and give that one to a friend.
I don't know about you but that sure get's me excited and has my head reeling! See what I mean about "What if the impossible isn't?", what was once just something you read about in science fiction novels and movies is now on your desktop!
I'll let you think on it a bit more and be back to you in future posts with both more examples and implications.