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3D Self-Replicating Printer to be Released Under GNU License

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the damned-recursion-damned-recursion dept.

GNU is Not Unix 313

Rob O'Neill writes "A Kiwi open source developer is working on a self-replicating 3D printer, RepRap, to be made available under the GNU license. 'The 3D printer works by building components up in layers of plastic, mainly polylactic acid (PLA), which is a bio-degradable polymer made from lactic acid. The technology already exists, but commercial machines are very expensive. They also can't copy themselves, and they can't be manipulated by users, says Vik Olliver. RepRap has a different idea. The team, which is spread over New Zealand, the UK and the US, develops and gives away the designs for its much cheaper machine, which also has self-copying capabilities. It wants to make the machine available to anybody — including small communities in the developing world, as well as people in the developed world, says Olliver. Accordingly, the RepRap machine is distributed, at no cost, under the GNU (General Public License).'"

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Really? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994292)

How does it copy its circuit boards and metallic components? Does it have a little semi-conductor factory?

Re:Really? (3, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994420)

Apparently "RepRap also allows people to build circuits in 3D". I don't think the article is claiming that it *can* copy itself, though (if it could, they'd have more than seven in existence), just that that's their eventual goal.

Re:Really? (5, Funny)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994566)

... There are many copies. And they have a plan.

Re:Really? (4, Funny)

TheWanderingHermit (513872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994644)

... There are many copies. And they have a plan.
But that's toasters, not printers...

Re:Really? (4, Funny)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994698)

Hey, racist terms like that aren't tolerated here!

Re:Really? (5, Funny)

Drooling Iguana (61479) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994742)

Bah, the fax machine is just a waffle-iron with a phone attached!

Re:Really? (1)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994434)

We know that people are going to use the printer to try to make weapons [and] sex toys and drug paraphernalia,
And your concerned about circuit boards?
Seriously, that's a good point though, the article isn't really clear.

A head that deposits low melting-point metal is in development, he says.
Yet the article also states:

RepRap also allows people to build circuits in 3D
Just what are these circuits made of? Or are they just masks you can lay down on a PCBA, leaving you to solder it all together? Anyone know?

Re:Really? (4, Interesting)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994460)

New features include, for example, heads that can be changed for different kinds of plastic. A head that deposits low melting-point metal is in development, he says. The metal melts at a lower temperature than that at which plastic melts, which means the metal can be put inside plastic, says Olliver. "That means, in theory, we could build structures like motors."
Of course, the main part of a motor usually consists of really long wires wrapped into coils. I'm not sure how well a non-wrapped version would work, but yes, in theory it's possible. More feasible would be building a jig to help me wind my own motor coils.

Also, it sounds like it would be trivial to build a PC "board". It wouldn't have to be flat, and you wouldn't need to etch it. You could have places on your device to surface attach ICs.

Re:Really? (2, Interesting)

Tangent128 (1112197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994916)

You can still make wrapped coils, methinks. Just build them up in cross-sections. The printing resolution would likely limit how tight you could get it, though.

Re:Really? (5, Informative)

PinkFuzzyBunny (998076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994728)

Currently the machine can produce %60 (by mass) of it's non-electronic components with the remainder being largely commonly available (metric) hardware like rods and bolts. Work is underway on a printhead capable of printing circuit traces via solder type alloys. Actual printing of semiconductor devices is still in the early research and implementation phase at various corporations and universities. Printable motors are the remaining practical hurdle. So granted this is a 0.1 version. It still however represents an order of magnitude drop in the price of 3d printing devices, and thus seems worth some attention.
Also as to the applicability of the GPL to a device, It is the plans, designs, and instructions which are GPL'ed and, Yes copyright has been used in attempts to control physical device distribution(Epson printer cartridges I believe).

Re:Really? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22995080)

Will it also replicate the unnecessary apostrophes retards like putting into possessives? Why would you write IT IS in that sentence? Are you damaged somehow?

Re:Really? (4, Funny)

joaommp (685612) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994782)

They can replicate all they want, we will still find a way to disrupt them. If we get in real trouble and they go after the asgard core, we call our ancient next door.

Re:Really? (2, Interesting)

shrikel (535309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994814)

A lot of the wording on the site refers to an idealized version of the RepRap; i.e. what they hope to have someday. As of right now, they're still working on getting it to fabricate the plastic parts.

Currently it only builds things out of extruded thermoplastic. But it would certainly be possible (and this is a future plan) to use other materials. From the plastic extrusion they're doing now, it's a relatively small step to add a solder-extruder as well, allowing for circuit boards to be assembled.

Actually manufacturing semi-conductors is, granted, a little further off.

We're doomed! (5, Funny)

countach (534280) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994882)

What happens when these things run out of control replicating themselves, and the planet becomes a crawling oooze of 3D printers? Have they thought of that? No, I'll bet not. Smash any 3D printers you can see NOW!

Re:We're doomed! (1)

alexj33 (968322) | more than 6 years ago | (#22995002)

All it takes is for a few million folks with these printers to accidentally print a 600 page "document" with another printer on each page.

Re:Really? (4, Informative)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22995048)

Currently, it doesn't. But, there are several ways to produce circuit boards: The most promising is milling copper clad with a router attachment instead of a 3d printhead(called an extruder). Other ideas include printing a sheet of plastic with trenches in it and filling up the trenches with low melting point alloy to connect the components. There's also conductive ink, but that's a wee bit expensive.(made from silver) Reprap can't do metal parts yet, but there are several ideas on doing this, either print out the metal directly with a special metal printhead, or print a wax part, and do lost wax casting. As for semiconductors, it might be a while before someone does that. If you're worried about RepRap taking over the world, you still have some time, the prototype printer has only printed 99% of its printable parts.

HELP REPRAP! (3, Informative)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22995096)

Almost forgot, help RepRap, join the discussion board here: http://forums.reprap.org/ [reprap.org]

Real headline (2, Informative)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994294)

The real news here is, "RepRap has reached it's goal of being self-replicating". I'd heard they were striving for that, but this is a cool achievement.

Re:Real headline (2, Interesting)

Farakin (1101889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994356)

Actually the whole "it's free thing" is pretty cool. Where do I get one, and where do I buy this "paper"?

Re:Real headline (5, Informative)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994440)

Well, it is free as in thought. They give you plans for it. There is a 'not-for-profit' store for kits, setup by reprap.org - http://reprap.org/bin/view/Main/PartsSupplies [reprap.org]

Re:Real headline (2, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994472)

The real news here is, "RepRap has reached it's goal of being self-replicating".

I don't think that's close to being the case, though.

that's great.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994316)

But can it print sheep?

Re:that's great.. (1)

joaommp (685612) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994788)

they can, but they'd enter suspension mode while trying to count them...

Text (4, Informative)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994322)

I think they're web server was built out of plastic parts made by a reprap...its already failing hard. Here is the text from the article:

Based in the Waitakeres, in West Auckland, software developer and artist Vik Olliver is part of a team developing an open-source, self-copying 3D printer. The RepRap (Replicating Rapid-prototyper) printer can replicate and update itself. It can print its own parts, including updates, says Olliver, who is one of the core members of the RepRap team.

The 3D printer works by building components up in layers of plastic, mainly polylactic acid (PLA), which is a bio-degradable polymer made from lactic acid. The technology already exists, but commercial machines are very expensive. They also can't copy themselves, and they can't be manipulated by users, says Olliver.

RepRap has a different idea. The team, which is spread over New Zealand, the UK and the US, develops and gives away the designs for its much cheaper machine, which also has self-copying capabilities. It wants to make the machine available to anybody -- including small communities in the developing world, as well as people in the developed world, says Olliver.

Accordingly, the RepRap machine is distributed, at no cost, under the GNU (General Public Licence).

RepRap's open-source project aims to keep on improving the machine. "So it can do what people want it to do", says Olliver. Improvements will go back to users and, in this way, the machine as a whole evolves, he says. The idea of evolution is important, he adds. The device Olliver is creating now will probably bear very little resemblance to the device that will appear on everybody's desks in the future, he says.

"We want to make sure that everything is open, not just the design and the software you control it with, but the entire tool-chain, from the ground up," he says.

Olliver works for Catalyst IT, a Wellington-based open-source business system provider. He is fortunate enough to get "Google-time" from the company, which means he is allowed to work on his own research projects one day a week -- just like employees at Google. This has led to considerable developments in the RepRap project in the last six months, his says.

New features include, for example, heads that can be changed for different kinds of plastic. A head that deposits low melting-point metal is in development, he says. The metal melts at a lower temperature than that at which plastic melts, which means the metal can be put inside plastic, says Olliver. "That means, in theory, we could build structures like motors."

RepRap also allows people to build circuits in 3D, as well as various shapes, with the result that objects, such as a cell phone, don't have to be flat, he says.

There are at least seven copies of the RepRap machine in the world that Olliver knows about. The 3D printer also allows for a new and fascinating way of communicating: Olliver can design something at home in New Zealand, which then appears on another researcher's desk, in Bath, in the UK, or the other way around.

At the moment, the RepRap uses two different kinds of plastic -- PLA, a relatively rigid plastic, which is ideal for making objects such as corner brackets; and a more flexible plastic for making, for example, iPod cases, he says.

But having the machine copy itself is the most useful thing the team can make it do, and that is the primary goal of the project, says Olliver. However, it can also be used to make other things, such as wine glasses -- definitely water-tight, he adds -- and plastic parts for machines. When Computerworld talked to him, Olliver had just printed out a small part to fix his blender.

"We know that people are going to use the printer to try to make weapons [and] sex toys and drug paraphernalia," he says. "This is obviously not what we're hoping they are going to build. We are hoping they are going to build more and better RepRaps."

Re:Text (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994612)

It should be interesting. Imagine getting an email of a physical object that gets printed on one of these. Now imagine an email of a virus that gets created by one of these and infects the people in the room. The implications are interesting.

Re:Text (1)

halfelven (207781) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994772)

You should never click on such a link:

reprap://warez.com/selfdestruct.rr

Free? They make all their money off the 3D ink! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994650)

Free? They make all their money off the 3D ink!

Re:Text (1)

Mr. Beatdown (1221940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994688)

"We know that people are going to use the printer to try to make weapons [and] sex toys and drug paraphernalia,"
Anyone who's seen Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels knows that weapons and sex toys are not necessarily different things.

Skynet Tag (3, Funny)

kylehase (982334) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994324)

Self replicating machines... need a Skynet [wikipedia.org] tag.

wrong sci-fi show (1)

Xandar01 (612884) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994408)

Add just a few basic lines of code and you could have yourself some replicators http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replicator_(Stargate) [wikipedia.org]

Re:wrong sci-fi show (1)

joaommp (685612) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994798)

you need it to be javascript....

http://thedailywtf.com/Articles/Stargate-Code-of-the-Replicators.aspx [thedailywtf.com]

Re:wrong sci-fi show (2, Insightful)

sconeu (64226) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994912)

And, if you look at the white board in the episode "Avenger 2.0", you'll see that the Stargates themselves run on Java.

Re:Skynet Tag (2, Insightful)

Snowmit (704081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994488)

I was thinking a youngladysillustratedprimer [wikipedia.org] tag

so last year (5, Informative)

jim.hansson (1181963) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994328)

Re:so last year (1)

Skewray (896393) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994340)

I really miss my favorite keyword, "oldnews."

GNU license? (4, Interesting)

sharkb8 (723587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994336)

It's too bad that the GNU license doesn't cover a machine. It's for copyright. Copyright would cover the RepRap diagrams and schematics, however, the functional elements of the RepRap aren't covered by copyright. I suppose they could have patented aspects of RepRap, and licensed the patents under the GNU license, but I haven't seen anything like that. Anyone seen any patents or patent applications on this? (Zach over at NYC Resistor has a working model, it something to see in person)

Re:GNU license? (3, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994390)

Copyright would cover the RepRap diagrams and schematics
And that's exactly what they've put under the GNU license.

Re:GNU license? (3, Interesting)

sharkb8 (723587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994542)

Any machines you make from the schematics are not covered under the GPL, only the schematics. As long as you use the schematics according go the GPL, you don't have to release any changes to the machine itself back into the public domain. Thus, as long as you're not modifying the schematics themselves, releasing them under the GPL is almost useless. And there's a lot of questions regarding the copyright protection afforded schematics as most of what schematics describe is functional ,and not artistically creative.

Re:GNU license? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994630)

The point is simply that the schematics are freely available.

The GPL is more a social contract than a legal one.. if someone releases something under the GPL, only a rude person will hoard their changes.

Re:GNU license? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994752)

Why patent an invention that's supposed to be open? Prior art is all it takes.

Re:GNU license? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22995038)

Same reason you put code under the GPL, to force improvements of it to remain free.

Mod Parent up (2, Interesting)

amirulbahr (1216502) | more than 6 years ago | (#22995040)

Some people seem to have difficulty grasping patents, copyright and trademarks. I guess that is what the people who exploit this group of concepts really want anyway.

Re:GNU license? (1)

stvartak (740014) | more than 6 years ago | (#22995016)

Presumably there is some software behind the scenes running the machine. Perhaps that is what the article is referring to.

Released under the GNU? (1)

GradiusCVK (1017360) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994346)

Accordingly, the RepRap machine is distributed, at no cost, under the GNU (General Public Licence).
You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

Re:Released under the GNU? (1)

TypoNAM (695420) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994552)

Exactly, the GNU license does not exist. But the Free Software Foundation does have licenses: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/licenses.html [gnu.org]

One Question (5, Funny)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994360)

Can this printer print a printer so large it, in fact, can't print it?

-Peter

Re:One Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994414)

Or a copy of itself so small that it can't make any smaller copies?

thats right (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994366)

anal sex won't do anything but make your dick stink

Begs the question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994392)

Which came first? The printer or the cartridge?

Who replicates the replicators? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994422)

For thousands of years, man pondered the question, Who created God? (Google "first cause").

I've just gotten the answer from this slashdot story. God was created by another God. Who was received from a rich country under the GNU license.

Yes, but... (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994648)

God was created by another God.

Who created the god creating god?

Re:Yes, but... (1)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994716)

God.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

joaommp (685612) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994822)

RepGod

Re:Yes, but... (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22995022)

I think we can keep recursing like this until someone returns 1.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994758)

Some nerds from New Zealand off course :P

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994806)

"The ideal programmer, the ninja, has done everything yesterday. But harikari and bad debuggers make them very scarce..."

Off topic, but if you (are 15 years old and) want to mention ninjas, at least say "hara-kiri" or "Seppuku". Unless you meant Harry Carey or something I don't get...

Re:Yes, but... (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994996)

It would require me to take one "." from my sig. Hari(kiri links to seppuku anyhow).. wait. that's a sleepdrunken typo.

How long till the virus bots show up? (5, Funny)

TheNarrator (200498) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994454)

There are at least seven copies of the RepRap machine in the world that Olliver knows about. The 3D printer also allows for a new and fascinating way of communicating: Olliver can design something at home in New Zealand, which then appears on another researcherâ(TM)s desk, in Bath, in the UK, or the other way around.


So I'm going to double click an email attachment and wake up the next morning to find my house infested with little insect like robots wandering around my house looking for credit cards.

researcherÃ(TM)s (2, Funny)

XanC (644172) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994870)

Anybody know what's causing that apostrophe gibberish?

weapons [and?] sex toys (4, Funny)

binarybum (468664) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994458)


"We know that people are going to use the printer to try to make weapons [and] sex toys and drug paraphernalia," he says. "This is obviously not what we're hoping they are going to build. We are hoping they are going to build more and better RepRaps." ... so that we can then use those to build more and better weapons [and] sex toys, drug paraphernalia.

Re:weapons [and?] sex toys (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994842)

Weapons and illegal drug paraphernalia I can understand, but what do they have against sex toys?

Can it produce ink too? (1)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994516)

I'm sure it's "Ink" (media) is something like a wax or a plastic.

I can't get to the article right now but I wonder how hard it would be to have the printer make a machine to create its own "ink" from common household items like sand/glass oil and animal fat, something bizarre like that.

Re:Can it produce ink too? (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994624)

mainly polylactic acid (PLA), which is a bio-degradable polymer made from lactic acid

Can you get to the summary on this page?

copy of a copy of a copy? (3, Interesting)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994518)

Since this is (presumably) doing analogue-based copying, I imagine it's inevitable it would suffer from degradation between copies, similar to copies of old-school video/audio tape.

And would interesting mutations get in, like in DNA replication, I wonder?

Not a facsimile machine (4, Informative)

shrikel (535309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994680)

It doesn't "copy" itself, per se. It is a rapid prototyper; a machine capable of taking a digital description of an object and then fabricating that object by itself (in this case, using layers of extruded thermoplastic). So no, degradation is not an issue here.

I guess you could build some sort of scanner-type machine that would scan an object and create a digital description of it. Then maybe you could get generation-based degradation, if you really want to. ;)

Re:Not a facsimile machine (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994820)

Then maybe you could get generation-based degradation

I think the idea is that maybe the measurement will be slightly off in the first generation, leading to the track the head runs on to be slightly wider in the second generation, leading to a machine that stretches everything it produces by 0.05% in one dimension in the third generation, which just happens to have been assembled so that the nozzle points along the other axis and produces things stretched by 0.05% in one dimension while 0.05% thicker in the other, and so on.

Re:copy of a copy of a copy? (1)

WiglyWorm (1139035) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994702)

There will be imperfections, yes. However, an ink jet printer (which I presume this is based on, most machines like this are) is capable of placing femtoliter sized droplets of ink nearly exactly where they're supposed to be.

I can't imagine imperfections would be any more (in fact, probably less) than what you find through traditional manufacuring. And since you keep the original schematic in digital form on your computer, it won't continuously degrade. It will only contain small and perfectly acceptable variances at a molecular level.

Re:copy of a copy of a copy? (1)

TehZorroness (1104427) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994714)

at this point, it seems that the precise parts, such as extruder heads and the crane-game style 3-D conveyors are still made out of professionally manufactured or hand built pieces. RepRap isn't yet *fully* capable of copying itself because in order to do that, it would need to extrude a few metal parts and at lest 3 separate printed circuit boards with components.

Yes but... (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994532)

When will we see a server, which replicates itself, to handle a slashdotting?

Re:Yes but... (1)

chunk08 (1229574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994888)

Why isn't parent modded funny?
<dummy mode="on">Maybe we could use virtual machines?</dummy>

Official links (4, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994540)

Particularly since the news article seems to be down, here's the official site, which has some neat photos of RepRap:

http://reprap.org/bin/view/Main/WebHome [reprap.org]

Here's their main blog, where you can keep track of progress on RepRap:

http://blog.reprap.org/ [reprap.org]

That's great... (4, Funny)

PRMan (959735) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994546)

But the liquid plastic cartridges are $250 each...

reprap.org (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994550)

http://reprap.org/ [reprap.org]

check it out, got nice pictures.... article is quite lame.

It doesn't really self-replicate (2, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994564)

Here's the real site. [reprap.org] Look at the picture. The machine can make the white plastic parts. Not the motors, not the leadscrews, not the frame rods, not the belts, not the wiring, and not the control electronics. The parts it is making look like about $10 worth of injection molded plastic - the cheap parts.

Re:It doesn't really self-replicate (4, Interesting)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994666)

Small orders of custom injected molded plastic never cost only $10.

And $650 $45000.

Re:It doesn't really self-replicate (5, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994756)

Here's the real site. Look at the picture. The machine can make the white plastic parts. Not the motors, not the leadscrews, not the frame rods, not the belts, not the wiring, and not the control electronics. The parts it is making look like about $10 worth of injection molded plastic - the cheap parts.

Wrong; that's not $10 worth of injected-molded plastic, that's thousands of dollars worth at least.

Injection-molded plastic, as the name implies, requires a mold, and a machine to inject plastic with. Molds are expensive, as are these machines. Do you have the facilities at home to make injection-molded plastic parts? No? Then it's going to cost you a fair bit of money to send your CAD drawings to a place for them to make a mold and produce parts for you in large quantities. You say you only need one? Too bad. The cost isn't much different whether you want one or 1000.

That "$10 worth" of parts is only $10 when someone has gone to the trouble of making molds and doing a production run in the thousands or more.

With a machine like this, those parts can be made for next to nothing. You'll still have to add motors, leadscrews, belts, wiring, etc., but all that stuff is easily bought off-the-shelf, since it's all standardized. Special plastic parts for your particular application aren't available off-the-shelf, and that's the problem solved here.

Re:It doesn't really self-replicate (1)

bmccartney (938596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994886)

Agreed, except for the fact that the entire project has been focused on self replication - instead of focusing on making tons of models of other "stuff" available for these to make!!

GNU + Self Replication = Judgement Day? (1)

Mr.Ziggy (536666) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994574)

Doesn't a self-replicating machine, spread by GNU zealots, hasten the coming of Judgement Day?

fyi: I did watch the Sarah Connor Chronicles, but I think that's only because there was so much space on my ReplayTV due to the writer's strike.

Von Neumann probes (1)

Torodung (31985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994596)

How soon will it be before we manage to produce Von Neumann probe [wikipedia.org] ?

Hint to the project leader: Contact NASA, this is some cool stuff. Just don't screw up like the Slylandro [wikipedia.org] did.

--
Toro

NASA & ESA Not interested (1)

vik (17857) | more than 6 years ago | (#22995054)

Tried that. Neither NASA nor ESA deign to respond to our e-mail. Shame, but there you go.

Vik :v)

The singularity (3, Funny)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994604)

If this can be pulled, off, it could be world-changing. Imagine being able to download plans and create anything out of varieties of plastic! It would be the key to untold riches, with the only limitation the supply of cheap and plentiful... petroleum products.

Oh, never mind.

Re:The singularity (3, Insightful)

PinkFuzzyBunny (998076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994844)

Actually several of the plastics in use are produced from plant materials, others are silicone based. Even if the plastics used are petroleum based the thermoplastic nature of the device makes recycling both obvious and decentralized. So yes, maybe a world changer.

Re:The singularity (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994846)

Unless I'm missing something, TFA said the typically-used plastic on these printers is PLA, polylactose acid, which is made from lactose, an ingredient in milk, human muscles, and various other biological sources, not petroleum.

Re:The singularity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22995042)

Well, I hope there's a way to grind up old Reprap projects and just feed those back into the machine, otherwise we'll end up with a scenario much like that of normal printers -- having to buy cartridges of plastic pellets over and over again.

Then again, I didn't RTMFA so maybe they mentioned it.

whoo! lego! (4, Funny)

kris.montpetit (1265946) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994626)

this is going to be the ultimate answer to lego. Which of course means as soon as it comes out, it will destroy the social lives of millions of tinkering adults.

At least the cat can't pee in it XD

Re:whoo! lego! (1)

IdeaMan (216340) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994708)

Lego should invest in this heavily. They could get in at the ground floor by offering a Steam-like service where you can buy Lego plans online. You know all those custom parts Lego keeps coming up with? Instead of selling them in kits sell the plans for each piece.

Instead of it being the death of Lego, it could be the birth of Legos ginormous monopoly on small printed plastic parts.

Man... (1)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994740)

I hope the Gray Goo doesn't just turn out to be a ton of GNU Liscensed printers...I can see the trailers now...

In a world in which Man has reached its final Hour...

Nah, the printer mafia would have a fit if a company made a printer that could print out new ink (plastic, rubber, etc...)...the fall of the mighty printer empire which I for one welcome shall come not with a bang, but with a wimper and an empty box of toner.

WTF (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994754)

This has to be one of the most misleading article/summary. Can someone break it down to what it actually is? A plastic molding machine? What do they mean by "self-replicating"?

Re:WTF (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994926)

It's a clever plastic printer that can currently make SOME of itself (the plastic parts). The goal is to get it to make all of itself.

As several people pointed out earlier, although plastic material is cheap, the plastics are actually the expensive parts because of the extremely high cost of making an injection mold. This project is definitely something to keep an eye on.

I'll get it to make... (3, Funny)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994764)

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

Re:I'll get it to make... (-1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994948)

Your signature is exactly the sort of thinking that got us into this mess in the first place.

Missing the forest (5, Interesting)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994812)

I've been following the RepRap project for quite a while now. They have some really interesting ideas and a wonderful vision of the future.

However, in my opinion (such a rare thing on the internet) they are so enthralled with their grand ideas that it prevents them from actually getting anywhere. From their point of view, any design that can not replicate itself (except the metal) is an inherent failure. The other properties of the machine only start to matter once that is achieved.

While there is nothing wrong with the goal, it means that there is almost no drive at all to produce a machine that is practical for anything BUT duplicating its own plastic parts. Their design calls for basic, lumpy plastic bits and so there is no emphasis on better precision. They are only willing to use materials that can be made yourself, and so there is no chance of it working with better quality plastics. They have designed a machine that needs no small parts or detail work and so there is no emphasis on getting a print head design or motors that supports a better resolution, not that the current plastic could support a better resolution.

Five years from now they are going to announce they they have been able to successfully create a machine that can cheaply and easily replicate itself and that now they will work on making it better. And not even /. will cover the announcement because there will be consumer machines on the shelves that don't cost that much more, are more dependable and can do useful work. And it's a real shame.

Missing the point (3, Insightful)

vik (17857) | more than 6 years ago | (#22995090)

The design is meant to evolve. It won't do that until it replicates. Therefore, the most critical thing to do is make it replicate. If we spent our time making cool gadgets with it, this would delay the onset of replication and keep the thing out of your hands. It is only when large numbers of people can get hold of the thing that the design will evolve.

Besides, making it capable of producing its own parts automatically makes it capable of creating a whole heap of other stuff. People are subverting bits of the design already.

Vik :v)

Available now to DNA cowboys (1)

ChengWah (955139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22994914)

You can get working ones from Stuff Central

Spare parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22994956)

I thrown away plastic kettle because the top lid was broken. Almost thrown away a shredder because plastic bolts that keep motor in place were broken. I could just print those out. It needs a plastic recycler brother and we set. Think if you can print all kinds of plastic spare parts for you car. Also think of being able to print spoons/forks, tapper ware, tooth brush holders, door handles & other stuff you buy at the dollar store. Make a design, post on instructables.com ...

Those Kiwis (1)

jasonmanley (921037) | more than 6 years ago | (#22995058)

Is there anything they can't do? Seriously, since moving to NZ I have been very impressed with the level of brilliance that I have encountered. They really do 'punch above their weight' so to speak and consistently produce amazing results. I have been challenged to lift my own game quite a lot.

Here's a short-cut for ya (5, Funny)

RexDevious (321791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22995108)

"We know that people are going to use the printer to try to make weapons [and] sex toys and drug paraphernalia," he says.

All you have to do is, when some tells the machine to print a copy of itself - have it print a weapon instead. Then it points it at the user and says, "Go buy another copy of me and tell everyone I printed it. And if you think you can come back here with the police instead - keep in mind that I can also print sex toys and drug paraphernalia. So... do we understand each other?"

Granted, it'd make for some pretty awkward moments at trade shows - but it would still technically be a self-replicating printer.
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