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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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  • Sweet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ninja_Popsicle ( 1029246 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:03AM (#23666197)
    This is take piracy to a whole new level. What fun.
  • Re:Sweet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoobixCube ( 1133473 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:11AM (#23666269) Journal
    Can't wait to print off some Gundam models from 3d model files, instead of shelling out for the expensive model kits :P.
  • Ahh, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doug Neal ( 195160 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:14AM (#23666295)
    Can it sniff out nearby objects/people, ingest them, shred/melt them down to create new raw materials for buildling copies of itself? Thought not. We're safe... for now...
  • Re:Dupe! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jonaskoelker ( 922170 ) <jonaskoelker@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:15AM (#23666303)
    And I for one welcome our no longer just theoretically feasible new self-replicating plastic robot overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted slashdot personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground plastic caves.
  • Re:I... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jo42 ( 227475 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:21AM (#23666341) Homepage
    Yeah, whatever. It might be able to 'print' itself, but it still needs a human brain and hands to assemble it and actually make it work. :-p
  • by skware ( 78429 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @08:32AM (#23666413) Homepage

    Copy this story.

    (originally published in Nature Magazine, January 2006)

    Cory Doctorow

    The coppers smashed my father's printer when I was eight. I remember the hot, cling-film-in-a-microwave smell of it, and Da's look of ferocious concentration as he filled it with fresh goop, and the warm, fresh-baked feel of the objects that came out of it.

    The coppers came through the door with truncheons swinging, one of them reciting the terms of the warrant through a bullhorn. One of Da's customers had shopped him. The ipolice paid in high-grade pharmaceuticals -- performance enhancers, memory supplements, metabolic boosters. The kind of things that cost a fortune over the counter; the kind of things you could print at home, if you didn't mind the risk of having your kitchen filled with a sudden crush of big, beefy bodies, hard truncheons whistling through the air, smashing anyone and anything that got in the way.

    They destroyed grandma's trunk, the one she'd brought from the old country. They smashed our little refrigerator and the purifier unit over the window. My tweetybird escaped death by hiding in a corner of his cage as a big, booted foot crushed most of it into a sad tangle of printer-wire.

    Da. What they did to him. When he was done, he looked like he'd been brawling with an entire rugby side. They brought him out the door and let the newsies get a good look at him as they tossed him in the car. All the while a spokesman told the world that my Da's organized-crime bootlegging operation had been responsible for at least 20 million in contraband, and that my Da, the desperate villain, had resisted arrest.

    I saw it all from my phone, in the remains of the sitting room, watching it on the screen and wondering how, just how anyone could look at our little flat and our terrible, manky estate and mistake it for the home of an organized crime kingpin. They took the printer away, of course, and displayed it like a trophy for the newsies. Its little shrine in the kitchenette seemed horribly empty. When I roused myself and picked up the flat and rescued my poor peeping tweetybird, I put a blender there. It was made out of printed parts, so it would only last a month before I'd need to print new bearings and other moving parts. Back then, I could take apart and reassemble anything that could be printed.

    By the time I turned 18, they were ready to let Da out of prison. I'd visited him three times -- on my tenth birthday, on his fiftieth, and when Ma died. It had been two years since I'd last seen him and he was in bad shape. A prison fight had left him with a limp, and he looked over his shoulder so often it was like he had a tic. I was embarrassed when the minicab dropped us off in front of the estate, and tried to keep my distance from this ruined, limping skeleton as we went inside and up the stairs.

    "Lanie," he said, as he sat me down. "You're a smart girl, I know that. You wouldn't know where your old Da could get a printer and some goop?"

    I squeezed my hands into fists so tight my fingernails cut into my palms. I closed my eyes. "You've been in prison for ten years, Da. Ten. Years. You're going to risk another ten years to print out more blenders and pharma, more laptops and designer hats?"

    He grinned. "I'm not stupid, Lanie. I've learned my lesson. There's no hat or laptop that's worth going to jail for. I'm not going to print none of that rubbish, never again." He had a cup of tea, and he drank it now like it was whisky, a sip and then a long, satisfied exhalation. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair.

    "Come here, Lanie, let me whisper in your ear. Let me tell you the thing that I decided while I spent ten years in lockup. Come here and listen to your stupid Da."

    I felt a guilty pang about ticking him off. He was off his rocker, that much was clear. God knew what he went through in prison. "What, Da?" I said, leaning in close.

    "Lanie, I'm going to print more printers. Lots more printers. One for everyone
  • Re:I... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @09:18AM (#23666931)
    I love the idea of the RepRap as much as the next geek. But it's been posted on Slashdot at least three times that I can recall, and the headline or summary has always claimed, as this one does also, the factually incorrect statement that the "Machine Prints 3D Copies Of Itself". It doesn't. It's cool and all, and it's getting there, but it doesn't.
  • Re:I... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 05, 2008 @09:25AM (#23667021)
    Perhaps this criticism is extremely common because someone keeps claiming that RepRap is self replicating, when in fact it is not?
  • by smaddox ( 928261 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @09:41AM (#23667255)
    Cutting a metal cylinder is easy with a saw. Gluing into the plastic housing is easy with a clamp. Wrapping wire for a engine is easy, as is buying one online for a few bucks.

    The point is we have an easy way to make plastic parts that otherwise would have to be special ordered. This would complete any garage as a prototype fab. It would be amazing for lab work in which I always want a piece of plastic of a certain shape, but end up having to wait a week to get it made out of much more expensive metal in the machine shop.
  • Re:I... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @10:03AM (#23667603)
    Kind of like those new fangled milling machines! Word is by 1870 they will be building parts for duplicate milling machines. Fussing that milling machines are not 'perfectly self-replicating' yet is an extremely common criticism. This pedantic but factually true statement glosses over the fact that it's a machine that cheaply and easily makes its own parts*, using inexpensive feedstock.

    Oh, and I forget if it was 3D Systems or Stratasys or whoever (don't remember, because it's not important) has built some of their machine's parts on existing rapid prototyping systems for years.
  • Re:I... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 05, 2008 @10:23AM (#23667829)
    First, I love the idea of the RepRap and am seriously thinking of building one.

    But really, claiming self-replication here is only slightly less laughable than someone claiming their inkjet printer is "self-replicating" because it can print the manual that comes in the box.

    What we need is *quantification* - numbers. For example, choose one of the following measures:
    * part count
    * part cost
    * part mass
    * part compexity (harder to measure, but this is what really counts)

    and then find the value of X in this statement:

    "RepRap is X% self-replicating by [measure]"

    My guess is that even by the most favorable measure (probably mass), the number is well under 50%, and by other measures it's under 10%.

    But progress will be made, the value of X will increase, and that's what matters. Publicizing new values of X will attract attention and pique interest. Making unquantified claims of "self-replication" mostly just invites the fussing you're complaining about.
  • Re:Dupe! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by spacefiddle ( 620205 ) <spacefiddle.gmail@com> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @10:37AM (#23667993) Homepage Journal
    Great, now even the moderations are making copies of themselves!
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat.cCHICAGOom minus city> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:06AM (#23668383) Journal
    Okay... get some perspective here. The materials alone cost £400... which, giving that number a bit more meaning, works out to something over $750 USD. That's not exactly pocket change for a good percentage of people... and they somehow figure that people will just be willing to casually give them away? Sure, it's not out of reach of the average person's budget for the person who wants one, but it still strikes me as being well beyond the typical person's threshold of disposability.
  • Re:I... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thePowerOfGrayskull ( 905905 ) <marc.paradise@nOsPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:43AM (#23668983) Homepage Journal
    "The amazing thing about a dancing bear is not how well it dances, but that it dances at all. "
  • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:57AM (#23669201) Journal
    Food is already self-replicating.
  • Re:I... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:03PM (#23669271)

    Fussing that RepRap is not 'perfectly self-replicating' yet is an extremely common criticism.
    Stop repeatedly claiming it, and we'll stop calling you on it. It's not printing a 3D copy of itself, it's building some basic infrastructure which can make up a new instance of the object.

    Similarly flimsy reasoning allows me to argue that my workstation setup can "print copies of itself" because I have a printer that can make nice big Apple logos that look not unlike the one on the front of my iMac.

    it's a machine that cheaply and easily makes its own parts
    The human body cheaply and easily makes its own parts. Unless you're announcing in the most roundabout way possible that your wife had a baby, please give it up.

    Yes, I'm a RepRap developer
    Yes, making your incorrect claim repeatedly is not doing you any favours. The ability to build 3D models is cool and all - though far from new - and I applaud your excellent progress as amateur enthusiasts. But the claim that gets you headlines is completely overstating your project's abilities, and will stop people taking you seriously and understanding the actual value of your work.

    *Aside from common stuff from a hardware store and an electronics store.
    I have the keys to the universe in this box*.

    * Alas, the box is locked.
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:11PM (#23669389) Homepage Journal
    Let's be honest about the self-replicating capacity of RepRap. If this device were even close to being able to produce the electronics embodied in itself, it would have to be much more complex than just a manufacturer of 3-D plastic parts. Without those electronics, the device is really just a skeleton.

    I submit that without the capacity to manufacture a working integrated circuit, the claim that the device can replicate itself should be considered a deliberate act of fraud.


I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel