RepRap pushing the bounds of DIY 3D Printing
The Replication Rapid-Prototyper Project (RepRap) is a movement with the goal of providing Open-source, diy(do-it-yourself) 3D Printers at low costs to 3D Printing hobbyists. RepRaps are 3D printers with the additional ability to produce most of the parts necessary to assemble another identical printer. In other words, they are machines that could clone themselves.
3D designs, either downloaded or created with CAD programs, are “printed” with RepRaps. The printers read designs from a computer, and build extremely accurate 3D prototypes of them by layering hot plastic onto what is called a build platform. Some examples of objects made with RepRaps include toy figures, children’s shoes, plastic kitchenware, buttons, coat hangers, and much more.
The RepRap printer was invented in 2004 by Adrian Bowyer, a senior lecturer in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Bath. In his essay titled, “Wealth without Money,” he romanticizes that the project’s general concept is Marxist in nature because the existence of a machine with the ability to copy itself can, in theory, expedite power to the powerless. The theory suggests that with the introduction of RepRaps, larger manufacturers which produce goods in an arithmetic progression (e.g. assembly lines), would no longer be the most efficient method of production. This is because RepRaps have the ability to grow exponentially. Bowyer suggests RepRaps are like viruses. If a RepRap printer had the ability to create one prototype of a button, and one copy of itself per day, there would be 163,839 new buttons at the end of 18 days.
Currently, there are many companies, such as BotMill and BitsFromBytes, which sell pre-built variants of this technology at affordable prices. For example, a fully assembled Glider 3D Printer is available at BotMill for $1,395; and an Axis 3D Printer Kit, which is sold unassembled, sells at $1,065. See our 3D Printer comparison grid for a detailed picture of all low-cost, do-it-yourself 3D printers.
More information and interactive media about the Reprap Project can be found at the movement’s own wiki site.