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RepRap Machine Can (Almost) Duplicate Itself

RepRap (replicating rapid-prototyper), the rapid prototyping system, is now able to fully duplicate its own complete set of parts. Dr. Adrian Bowyer will introduce both "parent" and "child" at this week's Cheltenham Science Festival.


(RepRap prototyper duplicates itself)

According to Dr. Bowyer, the next generation of RepRap will also be able to duplicate its own nervous system and brain.

RepRap ... employs a technique called 'additive fabrication'.

The machine works like a printer, but rather than squirting ink onto paper, it puts down thin layers of molten biodegradable plastic which solidify. These layers are built up to make three-dimensional objects.

The machine requires only one thing - "food" from its environment; that is, plastic for its replicative efforts. Oh, and don't forget some screws and chips, which I would put into the category of nervous system and brain.

"The next generation will be able to do electrical circuitry (we have proved this experimentally. And I have a student adding a print head that will (don't hold your breath, though) be able to do semiconductors."

"These days, most people in the developed world run a professional-quality print works, photographic lab and CD-pressing plant in their own house, all courtesy of their home PC. Why shouldn't they also run their own desktop factory capable of making many of the things they presently buy in shops, too?

Bowyer also credited the team led by Hod Lipson at Cornell University, which created the amazing starfish robot that is able to perform introspection and self-modeling.

As far as I know, the earliest reference to the idea of a machine that can reproduce itself is the robot mother from The Mechanical Mice, a 1941 story by Eric Frank Russell.

With a sigh of relief, I strolled toward the door. A high whine of midget motors drew my startled attention downward. While Butman and I stared aghast, a golden shuttle slid easily through one of the rat holes, sensed the death of the Robot Mother and scooted back through the other hole before I could stop it...

"Bill," [Burman] mouthed, "your bee analogy was perfect. Don't you understand? There's another swarm! A queen got loose!"
(Read more about the robot mother)

Via Robot that can build itself to be unveiled.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/4/2008)

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