Earlier this week I speculated on the spectacular changes that the development of the 3D printer could bring to our lives, economies and cities. One of the things I predicted was the introduction of the 3D printer available for the consumer market, which means available for our simple domestic needs. Right at this point I’ve to introduce another absolutely amazing initiative. The rather idealistic inventors of RepRap, which stands for Replicating Rapid prototyper, were able to produce a 3D pinter which can reproduce itself. “RepRap is a free desktop 3D printer capable of printing plastic objects. Since a large part of the RepRap is made of this same plastic the RepRap can be considered a self-replicating machine — one that anyone can build given time and materials.” The funny thing is, this a a give-it-away project, enabling anybody with a RepRap printer to print another one and give it away to friends or neighbors. This means that the project will be able to grow unlimited, like a population of rabbits on an island without foxes.
For most people this might sound quit scary, but I think one should first see this as an enormous opportunity for less developed communities to create a self-controlled production ability. Or, to say it in slightly exaggerated Marxist terms. Here the means of production are given back to the people. Marx would have been proud here and I think this form of social thinking is an underlying motivation for the developers. The team doesn’t look to be very much interested in earning money, but more in changing this world.
“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 License. So, if you have a RepRap machine, you can use it to make another and give that one to a friend…”
The first prototype was brilliantly entitled ‘Darwin’ and produced some great artworks, which are exhibited here. Reading further about the projects blog, wiki and DIY kit, I honestly guess this is a little too technical for me. But for some of us this may work very soon. I’m curious to see results in the future.