Manufacturing for the Masses: Self-replicating Manufacturing Machines

3D Printed machines
3D Printed machines

The September talk will now be given by Dr Adrian Bowyer, the originator of the worldwide RepRap project. Adrian will be talking about his work on 3D printing and self-replicating machines.

3D printing is about thirty-five years old. It has two key characteristics: it is very slow, and it is very easy to use.  And now that all the patents on it are expiring, it is also becoming very low cost. These characteristics are the fundamental ones needed for a distributed technology, a technology that it makes more sense for individuals and small groups to own than to gather together in big economies-of-scale factories.

The RepRap Project is the main reason for the falling costs of 3D printing. But it was not primarily established as a 3D-printing project. It was established to make a useful self-replicating machine. 3D printing was merely the most appropriate technology to use for self-replication.

After the fundamental interactions of physics, self-replication is the most powerful phenomenon that there is. It has transformed this entire planet, which has been knee-deep in self-replicating machines for the last three and a half billion years. (Indeed, your very knees are made out of self-replicating machines.) And, driven by the inexorable operation of Darwin’s Law, it is also the most efficient method of production that we know.

This talk will be about the introduction of open-source self-replicating machines as a primary means of engineering production, and the possible social and economic consequences of you (and everyone else) making many of the things you need for yourself rather than buying them.

Adrian’s main areas of research are geometric modelling and geometric computing in general (being one of the creators of the Bowyer-Watson algorithm for Voronoi diagrams), the application of computers to manufacturing, the creation of smart hydrophilic-polymer gels using affinity interactions, and the engineering use of biology, called Biomimetics.  In Biomimetics, Adrian works on self-copying and self-assembly in engineering.

In 2012, Adrian retired from academia to focus on the RepRap Project, a project that has created humanity’s first general purpose self-replicating manufacturing machine.  Adrian is also the founder and director of RepRap Ltd, a company formed to do research and development in self-replicating open-source 3D Printing.


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