What’s this RepRap thing all about?
If you remember, in Star Trek series there was a gizmo that could recreate anything. Termed as “replicator”, it was one of the various awe inspiring gadgets that were depicted in the sci-fi series. We never felt that we would ever see these replicators in reality, did we? However, to our surprise, our assumption almost half a century ago may just prove wrong. A community project named RepRap has invented something unbelievable; a 3D printer that replicates itself.
RepRap is heading to our home. Really?
As stated on the RepRap community website, RepRap is a self-replicating machine that, given time and material, everyone can make. And that is not all; if the statement given by RepRap founder Dr. Adrian Bowyer, to a noted tech website is to be believed, this 3D printer may just be a part of your home in less than a decade’s time. Bowyer, who is a lecturer at the University of Bath since 2005, got this idea after the university got its first 3D printer. By 2007, he developed a 3D printer that could print in plastic and off-course could self-replicate itself. He named it Darwin. And since it’s an open source project, tech freaks world over have used its code to make their own versions of the 3D printer. Today, there are as many as 20,000 RepRap machines used world over. Even firms such as Makerbot and Bits and Bytes took more than just a leaf from the freely available RepRap source code to come up with their own low cost printers.
How does a RepRap work?
RepRap works by layering a molten plastic onto a base. The plastics it uses are Acrylonitrile - Butadiene - Styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid, a biodegradable plastic that is derived from plants. Typically, it takes about 30 minutes for the RepRap to produce a small item such as a plastic joint. However, since the RepRap printers are customizable, its versions can print using a range of material including clay and ceramics. The range of items that can be printed using RepRap 3D printers range include quadroceptors, artificial shells for hermit crabs, and even water filters that can be used in developing countries. To know more about the items that a RepRap can produce, give a visit to Thingiverse.com.
Bowyer has the vision of giving the consumers the capability of printing something such as a workable phone right in their homes within the next 7 to 10 years. If the growing glut of tech geeks can manage to bring the cost of 3D printers further down, we may just have a RepRap in our homes by the end of 2010s. The most economical RepRap printer currently available is Huxley, priced at 430 pounds. Bowyer also envisions that as 3D printers gain traction in businesses and homes, people will have the ability to tweak their household items to their liking.
Image by Sebastian Bergmann