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Robotics Technology

Machine Prints 3D Copies Of Itself 341

TaeKwonDood writes "Automated machines have been around for decades. They have basically been dumb devices that do simple assembly tasks. But RepRap takes that a step further because, instead of assembling pre-fabricated parts, it creates 3-D objects by printing them — squirting molten plastic in layers — and then building them up as the plastic solidifies. It works on coat hooks, door handles and now it can even make working copies ... of itself. The miracle of additive fabrication, coming soon to a robotic overlord near you."
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Machine Prints 3D Copies Of Itself

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  • Dupe! (Score:5, Informative)

    by RMH101 ( 636144 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:02AM (#23666187)
    Haven't I heard this before?
  • Re:Dupe! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:02AM (#23666191)
  • Close but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:03AM (#23666201) Journal
    ...not quite there yet.

    FTA (emphasis mine):

    The materials, plus the minority of parts that the machine cannot print, cost about £300.
    It also does not actually assemble the parts it creates. So close and yet so far.
  • Re:Dupe! (Score:4, Informative)

    by NoobixCube ( 1133473 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:06AM (#23666219) Journal
    It is a dupe, but when we saw it last, I think it was only theoretically capable of self replication. From the look of the summary, it may actually be capable of it, now. I haven't read the article yet. I came straight to the comments to see if it wasn't just me thinking I'd seen it before.
  • God I want one.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by CFBMoo1 ( 157453 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:08AM (#23666247) Homepage
    All the times I've owned something and one annoying plastic part breaks ruining the product. With this baby it'd be so easy for companies to send replacement parts at a fraction of the cost I bet.

    If I still had my old Dell laptop I'd print the latch that broke off a few years ago.
  • by can56 ( 698639 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:09AM (#23666253)
    and stories about itself on /. Didn't we have an article/discussion a few days ago, and figured out the only thing this 'self-replicating printer machine' does is make copies of its case?
  • Re:Close but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by NightWhistler ( 542034 ) <> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:16AM (#23666307) Homepage
    From the pictures in the article it seems to mostly consist of small metal pipes, with pieces of plastic connecting them.... from what I gather it's only able to print the plastic connection parts, so I'm not sure how this counts as "self-replicating".

    Also it has a big bunch of wires coming out the back, which I bet are not replicated either... so someone was jumping the gun a bit while writing this article :)

    Still... this is some seriously cool technology... if the resulting plastic parts are strong / durable enough it could certainly have a huge impact... essentially being able to download physical objects from the internet...
  • Re:Dupe! (Score:4, Informative)

    by lilomar ( 1072448 ) <> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:19AM (#23666325) Homepage
    The RepRap blog [] announced replication several days ago. This is the first time that the machine has been capable of doing this.
  • by lilomar ( 1072448 ) <> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:21AM (#23666343) Homepage
    The guys who designed this thing aren't a business. They put the design online and the list of parts online for free, and tell anyone who wants to make one for themselves, then print one off for a friend, who can make one for his friend....
  • Re:Dupe! (Score:3, Informative)

    by fifedrum ( 611338 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:29AM (#23666395) Journal
    but it's still not duplicating the metal parts and the circuits required to drive the copy so it's not duplicating itself so much as printing off plastic casts of parts for a duplicate to use, significant difference between the two states.

    a) perfect working copy
    b) partial copy

    don't get me wrong, it's an awesome device and hell who couldn't use a rapid prototyper at home? I know I could!
  • Re:Dupe! (Score:5, Informative)

    by renoX ( 11677 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:32AM (#23666417)
    The news here is that it has achieved 'self-replication' (between quotes because the replication is only done for the plastic parts).

    The article gives little detail beside the price of the parts: how much time is necessary for the self-replication? what are the skills needed for the assembly?

  • Re:I... (Score:1, Informative)

    by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:35AM (#23666443) Journal
    not anymore. The Creator has created and is now obsolete.
  • Re:I... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gerzel ( 240421 ) <> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:37AM (#23666463) Journal
    It can't even print itself as it still requires non-printed parts.
  • Re:I... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 05, 2008 @09:01AM (#23666713)
    What it does is print the plastic parts needed to make a copy of itself - you still need steel rods, motors, nuts and bolts, nichrome wire to make the heater core and a handful of small Anduino circuit boards. And of course you have to bolt it together yourself. Pretty soon it should be able to make its own circuit boards - but you'll still need to add electronic components.

    It's a significant step - but the slashdot blurb wildly over-sells it.
  • Re:Sweet (Score:5, Informative)

    by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @09:22AM (#23666983) Homepage
    Won't work with this machine unfortunately ... it lacks a support material, so it can only print a certain, very limited class of 3d shapes.

    In fact it can't print any structures that won't retain their shapes when melted to, say 5 degrees below their melting point.

    The safe class of objects that it can print are those that are basically straight-up walls upon a flat base. The most complex stuff it would be able to print is a gothic castle (the ones with tiny windows), and you'd have to put the roofs on top of them afterwards.

    The "full" class of objects it can print are those where a finite element stress analysis (*with* gravity active obviously) doesn't have any red spots.

    (and now translation from technobabble to bad news :)

    It can't print Gundam models. At least not directly. For a less limited class of objects you could make 2 half-negatives, allowing you to mass-produce them. You'd have to paint them afterwards.
  • Video of RepRap (Score:2, Informative)

    by OtherFarm ( 1010907 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @09:39AM (#23667217)
    A video of Adrian Bowyer's RepRap can be found at ofpblog [].
  • Re:Dupe! (Score:2, Informative)

    by arctanx ( 1187415 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @09:39AM (#23667231)

    The RepRap had a talk and demonstration at 2008 given by Viktor Olliver [] which you can download in full if you want more detail. The parts are pretty slow to build -- it takes a few minutes to heat up, and off the top of my head I think the larger parts took a couple of hours to build.

    The main difficulty I reckon you'd have building one is the precision necessary for the molten plastic squirting head, if you haven't experience with that.

  • Re:Sweet (Score:3, Informative)

    by nicklott ( 533496 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @10:58AM (#23668265)
    I neither know what a Gundam is nor know how this machine works, but on the reprap site it says:

    There are two heads to allow a filler material to be laid down as well as the plastic. This filler is used to support overhanging parts of the objects being built, and is removed when the process is finished
    Which leads me to believe that it can in fact make Gundam models.
  • Re:Toxic? (Score:4, Informative)

    by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:12AM (#23668461) Journal
    It uses polylactic acid, which is thermoplastic, not thermosetting: the machine melts it and prints the droplet of hot material, which then freezes solid. Apparently it can also print stuff that stays somewhat flexible after printing, for softer items.

    There are plenty of molten plastics that don't degas much, and there are some that are incredibly toxic. I haven't found anything about PLA yet, but I know a bit about lactic acid and it shouldn't be the health risk that, say, the stuff coming off melted polyvinyl chloride would be, or any nitrile-containing polymers. Molten nylon's not too bad, though.
  • Re:Dupe! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Plaasjaapie ( 1049376 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:01PM (#23669255)

    how much time is necessary for the self-replication?
    Vik Olivier, a core development team member living in New Zealand, printed upthe first full set of Darwin parts in his spare time in about a month. Chris Palmer in the UK, another core development team member, reported this morning that he has printed out about 60% by mass of a full parts set in 72 hours of actual printer operation.

    what are the skills needed for the assembly?
    You can buy a fully assembled Darwin 3D printer sans the control boards from in the UK. The control boards can be purchased from the Reprap foundation ( in the US. The chips and other bits that go on the boards can be got from places like among others. The foundation is planning to offer full parts kits for the boards before too long, I'm told. It is only a matter of time, imo, before some robotics shop or six start offering fully assembled and tested control boards as well.
  • Re:I... (Score:2, Informative)

    by pac109 ( 1171789 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:40PM (#23669863)
  • Re:I... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Carnildo ( 712617 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @03:08PM (#23672253) Homepage Journal

    Does the RepRap team have the driver and CAM software made?...

    Yes, they do. They're using a modified version of the open-source Art of Illusion 3D modelling software for this.
  • Re:I... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Carnildo ( 712617 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @03:11PM (#23672291) Homepage Journal
    Give it a different printhead, and it will be able to lay down patterns on a blank circuit board.

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