Thursday, 17th December, 2009
The Incredible RepRap 3D Printer – a Glimpse of the Future?
Have you ever wished that you could make that plastic bookcase shelf support that nobody seems to have in stock, or that bracket that holds the underside of your chair together? You can now build a machine which will print objects that you need.
Adrian Bowyer and his team at Bath University have developed Mendel, a relatively cheap device that you can build yourself for about 350 euros. Mendel, in turn, can be programmed with instructions to form a whole range of 3D parts in plastic. Examples of these are a pair of child’s sandals, a door handle, a coat hook and a cocktail glass.
Even more intriguingly, Mendel can manufacture about 50% of the parts required to make a second Mendel, and the design team’s goal is to improve this ratio. Ideally, one day, a Mendel (or its successor models) might be able to make a complete clone of itself.
We might see a world one day where manufacturing small scale items is done at home by replicator machines, and where this kind of work becomes once again a home-based process rather than one conducted in vast mills and factories.
“[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.