back to article Self-replicating machine replicates

Next month will see a new version of the self-replicating RepRap machine, but owners of the existing model won't need to buy a replacement - they'll just be able to just print themselves an upgraded version. RepRap was developed by a team led by Adrian Bowyer from Bath University, who makes rather audacious claims for his baby …


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  1. It wasnt me

    Very good

    O.K. The author was a bit sarcastic and not so impressed, but that is ultimately way cooler than mechano or lego. I want one.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    "and will soon be tasked with printing out the parts of its own replacement"

    Beware of the first time one of these refuses to create its replacement.

  3. Andy Worth


    What were those things called? Replicators? They basically consumed other materials to build more of themselves.



  4. JP Sistenich
    Black Helicopters


    Surely RotM tag?!?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK as a toy

    Well for the amateur engineer who might build a kit car / boat / aeroplane it's a fun project.

    As far as practicality goes though it's just a toy. A professional grade hi-def desktop 3D printer isn't a huge amount, relatively speaking, anyway.

    They are getting cheaper all the time too.

  6. Tom Paine

    This sounds like a case for...

    "the emphasis is on size, mobility, and the ability to use a second head. "

    ...Come back Wurzel, all is forgiven!

  7. Daniel Grout
    Jobs Horns

    I for one....

    welcome our self-replicating overlords....

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I think I might actually have to buy one of these. I can't even think of a valid reason for having one..

    I guess I could make people xmas presents. Yes. That's how I will justify spending £500.

  9. Rob


    i look forward to seeing them print their first car battery.

  10. Reece

    Slight Correction

    The 'new version' is more in line of an alternative or maybe a fork from the original concept. As it is all open source people can do what they like.

    My understanding is that this is not included (currently) in the 'offical roadmap' for future versions but it is being done by one of the core team so may eventually become 'canon'.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    ...not a self replicating machine! That's my wife!

  12. Lionel Baden

    Oh Man

    This would Be so Unbeleivably cool to have !!!

    The stuff i could build for my car (with dual head) dashboard with intergrated circuit board for electronics :D

    and funky cool looking speaker surrounds and and and and awww Want ....

    need a shed first though :/

  13. John Smith Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    You have to look at the potential

    It does not look much. But then the single cell blobs which ultimately evolved into us did not look much either.

    The point is the design can be tinkered with and evolved into something better. Some of them will be dead ends but others will be remarkable.

    A second head is a good start. A lot of this will be painstaking materials selection and characterisation. Other deposition technologies (electro-forming or electrochemical milling) can be bolted on. For true self replication it must be able to handle all the key parts. This suggests the motors are the next "Grand challenge." They may not look much like something from a factory but as long as they provide the right torque and speed for the same signals it won't matter. This will probably need some software externsions as well.

    I wonder how much of a community of interested users exists for this.

  14. David

    @Lionel Baden

    just print a shed ?

  15. Steve Swann


    We have an answer to the Eternal Jellyfish! hah!

    Now they will face the might of our self-replicating technology!

    Let me be the first to welcome our self-replicating overlords (whichever is triumphant in the war to come!)

  16. Richard
    Thumb Up


    They should really work with Lego to make a version of this which can be constructed out of a lego kit and a CAD package with Lego shapes which can be customised. The would be cool, no more of this new lego which can only be used to make one model.

  17. storng.bare.durid
    Thumb Up


    Really cool piece of kit. Must buy one someday. More stories on stuff like this please.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I can see these going down a storm with custom figure building otaku in Japan.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "even claims that RepRap is a green solution in that it removes the need to ship injection-moulded products around the world - a claim that would make more sense if it wouldn't remain necessary to ship rolls of welder's plastic around the world instead"

    I think the point is that the plastic will be much denser in raw form than when fully formed. There will also be less need for massive amounts of packaging and padding. Fewer lorries on the road and ships on the sea, yet each carrying more weight, but overall less weight and more efficiency.

    And more to the point, every individual instance of Optimus Prime (for example) comes from the same factory in the Far East, yet there are toy factories all over the world. If Optimus Prime could be made locally, not all Optimus Primes would need to use plastic from the same source, and so no, it wouldn't be being shipped "all over the world" to anywhere near the same extent.

    That said, I'm still dubious as to the overall efficiency as a replacement for current production techniques -- injection moulding is always going to be soooooo much quicker than this.....

  20. DutchOven

    I thought I heard it speak...

    ...and it said "John Connor?", with a dodgy Austrian accent.

  21. Gordon Pryra

    What are the legal ramifications?

    Say if Priate Bay has one of these in their offices?

  22. b166er


    New Lego that can only be used to make one model??? Where's your imagination :-p. My son regularly gets Star Wars Lego models, and it doesn't stop him breaking them down and creating his own when he feels like it.

    Open Source Lego, buy a RepRap and print your own Lego, then you could have an unlimited amount of custom blocks with which to make even more borgified ex-Star Wars vehicles!

    That is until the BBAA (Building Block Association of America) comes after you for copyright infringement :(

  23. Graham Marsden

    printing out the parts of its own replacement....

    Err, boss, we just told this machine to print out the parts for its own replacement and instead it printed out a hand with two fingers extended...

  24. Steve

    Re: Slight correction

    "My understanding is that this is not included (currently) in the 'offical roadmap' for future versions but it is being done by one of the core team so may eventually become 'canon'."

    So is this a 'canon' printer then?


  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About as self replicating as a steel works

    44% not replicable and that's all the interesting bits! Suspect that if you really wanted to do it, a steel works could hit 80-90% self-replicating, but then that's so 19th century.

    Most impressed at uni's PR dept, winning out over research by miles.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A couple of posters have been talking about making Lego... with tolerances of 1mm it might be tricky to get a snug fit...

    Here's the brick dimensions, courtesy of

    * Brick height 9.582 mm 0.37724 in

    * Plate height 3.194 mm 0.12575 in

    * Stud pitch 7.985 mm 0.31437 in

    Any deviance from that leaves an unstable model.

  27. Dave

    Last AC - 11:57

    Your way off the mark there. If you went a long way back in time to the days of the local smithy, then you might get close, but a modern iron or steel works produces ingots, bars, rods and sheet metal. But not screws, or concrete, or copper wire, or roofing slate, or glass....

  28. Wortel

    @Mark_T - OK as a toy

    *Very* relatively speaking then.. at "Only £12,500 plus VAT" according to the website you referred to.. quite a slap in the face compared to RepRap :(

  29. Elmer Phud
    Paris Hilton

    Uses of Polymorph

    From MUTR's website:

    "Warning: Under no circumstances should Polymorph be moulded around parts of the body, risking the danger of it hardening in position. "

    "I slipped and fell on to some warm Polymorph. At the same time the belt on my trousers gave way and the elastic on my pants went."

    Fnar, fnar

    Paris - (some sexist thing about hard plastic to be inserted here as none of the usual suspects seem to have thought of it yet )

  30. Toastan Buttar
    Thumb Up

    Re: "Oh man"

    Have you got something like this in mind ?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The energy benefits of the RepRap over mass production are marginal at best, at least in its current state.

    Mass production and distribution is extremely energy efficient. However, it relies on producing huge numbers of exactly the same item.

    Where the RepRap (or indeed any desktop manufacturing) shines is in customization. A factory can make millions of copies of a single thing. A RepRap can make single copies of millions of things. How many times have you stood in a shop, looking at shelves full of things that were *nearly* what you wanted? Imagine, instead, being able to get the design for something that's nearly what you want, altering it to be *exactly* what you want and printing it off? Now imagine people all over the world doing the same thing and sharing their designs. Imagine what happens when design decisions no longer cater to the lowest common denominator. This is the true power of this technology.

  32. John F***ing Stepp

    And the obvious question.

    Can I get it in Steampunk?

  33. Renoir
    Thumb Up

    I've got one

    I've built one from a kit. Great fun to build and I've learnt a lot, starting from nothing. Blog here:

  34. John Smith Gold badge


    Those dimensions are not the problem.

    Its the *tolerance* on those dimensions. The seem to be saying it can build an object to within 0.1mm of a dimension. If the tolerance on say stud pitch would accept 8mm or 7.9mm instead your in business.

    Tolerances like a lot of dimensions have ISO standards and I cannot remember what classes as an press fit, which is what I think Lego (or a similar but non trademarked press fit type construction toy) relies on.

    Note 0.1mm sound large but it is 0.004". IIRC the difference between a car engine which runs smoothly and one whose fits are so sloppy they leak oil is about 0.003"

  35. snafu

    All Tomorrow's Parties

    Echoes of William Gibson's novel there.

  36. andre

    Motor replication

    I am in fact working on this, using an 0604 SMD UV LED array. Printing the PCB for this requires significant initial effort but once done it can make copies easily.

    The basic idea is to print out coil arrays on single sided PCB stock then stack the PCBs to create the required field strength.

    Magnets are tricky but there are motors (AC induction comes to mind) which just need an iron core.

    see for more details.


  37. Rob

    No longer will we need...

    ... a puncture repair kit for Rachel the inflatible. You could create a whole hareem of them.

    Mine's the Plastic Mac currently forming in the RepRap over there.

  38. DR


    I think the point is that the plastic will be much denser in raw form than when fully formed. There will also be less need for massive amounts of packaging and padding. Fewer lorries on the road and ships on the sea, yet each carrying more weight, but overall less weight and more efficiency.

    I don't see what you mean, say you were shipping plastic packing boxes.

    you fill a lorry with 100 boxes,

    if you ship the raw materials for 100 boxes then may fit in a transit van rather than a HGV lorry.

    but the weight is still the same. -unless you're counting vehicle weight as well?

  39. John Smith Gold badge
    Thumb Up


    You may like to look at how thin film recording heads for HDD's and the Phillips DCC standard are made. AFAIK no one makes these components by actually winding a wire around a lump of magnetic material, yet a 3d coil is needed. Working out the geometry would also be the key enabler for transformers.

    A certain amount of work on this was done in the 1950s and 60 to find a way to mass product ferrite core memory, without using ferrite cores. However PCB mfg was in its infancy. I recall an article about either GE or RCA being heavily involved. It used IIRC electroplated rings of some ferromagnetic material (Pur Ni?, NiFe?, NiCo?) around punched holes in the boards with copper tracks running through the holes.

    I'm guessing that avoiding electroplating methods will complicate things a *lot*. Does anyone make a ferromagnetic photo or thermoplastic resin off the shelf?

    But good luck and I hope you will publish in detail if successful.

  40. Brian Dolge


    The savings/greenness factor comes from 2 places:

    1 A 5 lbs roll of plastic welding wire comes with a wire tie and a tag with a bar code and a few dozen words (wieght < 1 0z) and takes up maybe a cubic foot. 5 pounds of plastic toys comes to roughly 15 items each of which ships with a cardboard hanger(brightly printed) and a plastic protective bubble (say 1.1 oz) and occupies .5 cubic feet. The 15 items can be assumed to share a single shipping box (3 lbs and 7.5 cubic feet) thus the total for pre-manufactured objects is an extra 4 lbs of trash plus whatever losses are incurred by moving around all those extra (6.5) cubic feet (big trucks vs little trucks).

    2 It is unlikely that your Chinese toy factory has it's own plastic plant nearby. More likely large amounts of plastic are made at point X, shipped to point Y, where they are made into toys which are shipped to point Z. Shipping plastic from X to Z to be made into toys on site removes a step.

    It is also worth noting that transportation (and plastic) are currently cheap because the market treats their feedstock (petroleum) as infinitely available rather than limited resource. Changes in that situation are likely in the offing. Also local use of plastic would make more local, small scale manufacture of plastic more competitive. Newer, local plants are more likely to be required to meet greener standerds than older plants with only poor disenfrancised neighbors.

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