back to article Boffins build self-replicating replicating machine

If none of the iPhone cases available suit your needs, then why not make your own? It’s possible, say a team of researchers that have designed a printer capable of making almost anything - including more of itself. Reprap_01 The RepRap 3D printer can make all sorts of objects, including itself The Replicating Rapid- …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How does it print the PCBs?

    Or is it just able to build its own cases?

    Hardly replicating itself, since the mules it makes can't repeat the process.

  2. M

    So this is how I can...

    build my own flying car.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    May I be the first

    to welcome our new self-replicating machine masters!

  4. Alastair Dodd

    Von Newmann

    Clever but it can only fabricate the parts for another copy of itself surely? it doesn't assemble them into a new version? Still very cool but e won't be terraforming mars with repraps yet..

  5. peter

    Human Computer

    Am I a self replicating machine?

  6. Geoff Johnson

    Nano machines, here we come.

    So if it can build a working copy of its self, set the scale down by a few percent and give it a few generations.

  7. Robajob

    I seem to be the first to say...

    that I for one welcome our new self-replicating robot overlords.

  8. Graham Dawson Silver badge


    Not *yet*, but it's just a matter of time now. Ooh... actually I think I'll build one of these, it might come in handy for some model-making projects I have in mind.

  9. Vikash Joshi
    Paris Hilton

    Paris Clone

    I wonder if it could build another Paris Hilton?

    Paris: Because 2 Parises in the hand would be worth it for the bush!

    *I'll get my coat*

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    Am I the only one that is thinking of the replicators in Stargate that almost destroyed humanity?

    Are we sowing the seeds of our own destruction?

    Mine's the one hanging on the peg on the back of the bunker door - ta

  11. Pavlovs well trained dog

    @ Peter

    Only you can answer that - do you have any children who are identical to you?

    I /think/ I know the answer...

  12. The BigYin
    Thumb Down


    No. Unless you are a hermaphrodite who gave birth to an exact genetic replica.

    I'd love to know how this RepRap constructs all the various components and then plugs the "child" in. Of wait, it doesn't. Another total non-story which seems to be filling El Reg these days.

  13. Adam Foxton

    PCBs, Motors, etc

    Can it print the above? Wouldn't need to be incredibly compact I guess- just a parallel port and a couple of transistors/relays, a battery holder, a couple of motors, a nozzle of some description, a wiring loom, etc- and you could probably print that out in a decent space on a normal printer in a few layers (with the correct materials)...

  14. Tom
    Thumb Up

    makes me wonder

    if my trip-hop band, the universal constructors, can make some fast bucks out of our URL one day... ...where free mp3s of our tunes abound!

  15. Nick


    There is already a system processes which dose the type of thing 1 is 3d printing and the othe is selective laser sintering - much advanced and more cutting edge and visitility as well as being able to make more complicated and advance moving parts.

    Still bloody welll done i say for that price.

  16. Pete

    Can it print....

    A prawn sandwich?

  17. Andrew


    Great. They've already duplicated our welcome party for the self-replicating machine masters.

  18. radian

    breasty dumplings

    I bet the first thing they made was a pair boobs.

    Well it was the first thing I thought of anyway...

  19. Eddie Edwards

    But can it ...

    make a smaller version of itself? Then in two years we can all have nanobots!

  20. Simon Neill

    Skynet is one step closer.... taking over the world.

    That is all.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    @Human Computer

    That depends...

    Can you go and f**k yourself?

    If so, and offspring results, then Yep. :)

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Make your own weaponry?

    Mmmmkay... how strong is the stuff it prints?

    Like... "gun barrel" strong?

    So, if it prints out the parts for gun a), and then for gun b).

    Will shots from gun a) have the same markings as shots from gun b)?

    And will the CSI types figure out a way to tell WhoDunnIt? :)

  23. Sean Charles
    Thumb Up

    FAB Virgil ? Credit where credit is due...

    There is no mention of this:

    I cannot fail to see how they, being University boffins, could not have at least been influenced by it.

    I saw FAB@Home a few years back and it is still awesome.



  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, the printer is cheap ...

    but I bet the ink costs a flippin' fortune.

  25. Beelzeebub

    Doesn't exactly replicate itself

    It makes a plasticy printed copy.

    Great for making plastic cars, bad for safety, resilience etc.

  26. Schultz

    Combine with plastic electronics...

    and the possibilities will be endless!

  27. William Towle

    ...and on, and on, and...

    "Using its plans, the Bath University team claims a motivated amateur could build themselves a RepRap for around £300 (€380/$590)."

    Given you can use these things to make more of themselves, shouldn't it be clarified whether this estimate requires you to have one already or not?

    ["i] headache tablets in mine

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Patently a case of a violation

    Does anyone think that this will bring cass of patent violations against individuals ... or does the copyright/patent legislations allow for music style, "arrangements," of product designs?

  29. Richard

    RE: Replicators?

    Nope, my immediate thought as well. I can see the little buggers escaping whilst MacGyver appears out of nowhere to create an AntiReplicator Gun out of a twig, some dental floss and lemon cheesecake, most likely using one of these machines to combine them into the gun.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Someone give me one

    I mean a RepRap, that they have printed off their own. I think it's interesting, but would rather not make my own yet. I guess I could agree to make one after a while and pass that on...

  31. JeffyPooh

    Let's set down the rules...

    One initial machine provided with power and raw materials. Plug it in and let it run. Come back later and find at least four generations still working. Pull the plug before it gets out of hand. We can discuss the amount of human midwifery that might be permissible. Ideally, They (The Machines) should be able to take care of that themselves (plugging themselves into power for example).

    Anything less (such as displayed here) is BS. There's a lot of metal and motors and wires in the second unit. Seems like a stretch to claim that they've accomplished anything significant.

    The next step after basic meaningless reproduction (raises some interesting philosophical question abot humans...) would be to add some useful function. And scaling down to nano as mentioned above.

  32. bluesxman

    RE: Human Computer

    I don't think masturbation counts as replication :)

  33. Anonymous Coward

    How exactly does it print those metal poles?

    And the pcbs, and the stepper motors - printing the windings as layer upon layer of dots one on top of the other must be a bit tricky, no? And the wiring looms, and the heaters for the extruders, and the PIC chips?

    Nah, I didn't think so. It can't. And if it can't, then it can't replicate itself - only part of itself. And not the clever bits either.

    So the headline should not be 'machine replicates itself', it should be 'big complex machine makes a few of its own components'. And that's no more "self-replication" than many other much more long-established machines. I bet you'll find that the machine that makes nuts and bolts at the hardware factory has nuts and bolts among its components.

    This is just a marketing announcement. It's not actually /true/ or anything.

  34. Martin Owens


    I'm interested to see what software formats they used, there is a move in the Free hardware community to get software designs and machine instructions in an open format thus making sure it'll work for who ever wants to do it.

  35. Greg

    Coolest thing ever

    I have to have one. The number of times I've needed something very specific but have had no means to manufacture it...

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    You sad little news readers...not news makers

    Sad little people...It cannot completely self-replicate, ergo it must be crap...The price alone is worthy of note. A dimension machine capable of far shittier accuracies than mine cost my college $24,000. My machine cost Under $1,000 and only required a hack saw and a cordless drill to assemble. No, I didn't need a RepRap to make my RepStrap. I needed a brain. Also, the ability to create "MOST" of the components of a very complicated machine--compared in complexity to a modern microprocessor--isn't anything trivial as all of us working on this can attest. Further, since building the machine requires no specialized machinery and gives you a piece of specialized machinery when you are done, you can then build much more complex machines and parts aftterwords. This allows us to design much more elaborate and capable machines later as is the projects goals. Scoff now, cry later when you have to start from scratch building your own. And no--they will not be taking over the world. Why is it that you talk about robots in western nations and people get all afraid of them taking over the world? You don't see that in Japan. Stupid.

    Demented Chihuahua

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get stuff made for you

    Pretty cool looking system

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Just To Clarify...

    These machines can't replicate all by themselves. What they *can* do is print the custom plastic parts necessary to build a copy of itself. You still need: circuitry, metal hardware, a computer and software to run it. You also need someone clever enough to assemble it and get it running.

    Nearly everything except the plastic bits are off-the-shelf parts. There are a few small machined parts but, if you can handle a hacksaw and drill press, you'll probably be OK. The PCBs are custom but the plans for them are freely available. So, assuming you can get someone to print off the plastic bits for you and you have a reasonable level of shop skills, you can build your own RepRap.

    The "ink" is 3mm plastic welding rod, which is reasonably inexpensive and readily available.

    In short, no, it's not a stand-alone, self-replicating life form. It's more a sort of parasite that required a constant supply of nerdiness to reproduce.

  39. Mike Bronze badge


    Looks like a nice project, i will be looking in to it - think of how useful a 3D printer could be, and at that cost it could be affordable... just hard to tell exactly what is involved in building one to see if it's viable for me to make one! if it is then i'm in...

    Might be interesting to have multiple nozzles, stick some dye in with the plastic for the rods, real 3D printing :)

  40. Curtis Crowson

    You can by the parts from a UK company.

    If you go to the rep rap home website (use google). They list suppliers. One of the suppliers makes basically complete hardware kits.

    I think they are over stressing the self replicating part because it can't print the chips, capacitors, metal bars, and etc. the only thing it really can replicate of itself is the plastic parts.

    One of the first things that they recommend after building the rep rap is to print spare parts (all of the little plastic parts that hold the thing together).

    What this thing really is a cheap, reasonably large scale 3D printer. If you are an Industrially Designer you may have one that cost you 5 to 6 figures. This printer can be done for under 4 figures easily.

    This would be great for modelers or designers. It is nice to see your product in real 3D.

  41. Ben Bonsall

    Not yet but it will...

    It can't print PCBs yet, but it can't be far off... all you need is an acid resisting pen to draw out the circuit, a small drill head, and a solder extruder. Or you could print a flat insulating plastic sheet, and print on it with conductive ink.

    Putting the components in would be tricky though. You'd need more than one 'print' head, one to place the part, and one to solder.

  42. Captain DaFt

    @ M

    If you REALLY want a flying car, try

    Satisfaction guaranteed because: "We know you'll like it - No one has EVER returned one of these kits!"

  43. Michael Xion

    Which is the replicant...

    Are you sure the machine didn't make the boffin on the right? He looks suspiciously like a younger version of the boffin on the left!

  44. jubtastic1

    Ignoring the obvious limitations

    And looking to the future, I can see my grandchildren, possibly my kids involved in a legal dispute that makes the current anti p2p farce look utterly trivial by comparison.

  45. Anonymous Coward

    From the Wax Cylinders Association

    We at the Wax Cylinders Association believe that this technology is going to become the main culprit for the duplication of our member's IP. This is more damaging than even P2P and Terrorists COMBINED.


    On a more serious note, I can just imagine the spam this will attract. You think you're downloading a nice new tabletop, set it printing and go away to watch tv. On your return, you'd find a large plastic cock waiting for you bearing the slogan "Want one of these? Visit".

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