Senda Verde Permaculture Eco Center
Saturday, 9 January 2010
Appropriate technology and the Reprap machine
What is RepRap?
Look at your computer setup and imagine that you hooked up a 3D printer. Instead of printing on bits of paper this 3D printer makes real, robust, mechanical parts. To give you an idea of how robust, think Lego bricks and you're in the right area. You could make lots of useful stuff, but interestingly you could also make most of the parts to make another 3D printer. That would be a machine that could copy itself.
RepRap is short for Replicating Rapid-prototyper. It is the practical self-copying 3D printer introduced in the video below - a self-replicating machine. 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).
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 machine, you can use it to make another and give that one to a friend...
The RepRap project became widely known after a large press coverage in March 2005, though the idea goes back to a paper on the web written by Adrian Bowyer on 2 February 2004.
"Think of RepRap as a China on your desktop."
- Chris DiBona, Open Source Programs Manager, Google Inc., 8 April 2008.
"The promise of advanced fabrication technology that can copy itself is a truly remarkable concept with far reaching implications."
- Sir James Dyson, 17 April 2007.
"[RepRap] has been called the invention that will bring down global capitalism, start a second industrial revolution and save the environment..."
- The front page of The Guardian, November 25, 2006.
In this episode of the podcast I interview Andrew Bowyer of the Reprap Machine Project. Reprap is a self-replicating prototyper with profound implications for the Open Source Appropriate Technology Movement. Listen and learn.
Part II of my interview with Adrian Bowyer deals with two aspects of the reprap project: the global economic implications of distributed fabrication and practical tips for getting Reprap out there in as many hands as possible. Other issues, like economic collapse and Peak Oil are also addressed.