The robot, which is called RepRap, can not only print 3D plastic objects but also replicate its own 3D-printed parts. Although 3D printers have been around for nearly 25 years, a self-replicating robot has been a mere figment confined to science fiction and audacious scientific brains. But the RepRap team has fulfilled that fancy to a large extent and laid the foundation for something more substantial.
The Godfathers:RepRap designers proudly displaying their invention.
The machine’s prototype was recently displayed at the Cheltenham Science Festival in England from June 4 to June 8. It can print regular use plastic products like doormats, sandals and coat hooks. According to Dr Adrian Bowyer, the director of this groundbreaking research, it can revolutionize design and kick-start the proliferation of “desktop factories”. RepRap uses a technique called ‘additive fabrication’ - a fancy term to define something far simpler. Using this technique the machine prints thin layers of molten plastic as per a pre-specified design to eventually yield 3D objects.
Endless possibilities: Sandals made using RepRap.
A revolution in the offing: That day might not be far away when you might be able to build - literally print - everything from your dream PC to favorite gadget in your own home. A future tech news headline might read something like this: 15-year Boy Hack into Apple Servers, Downloads Upcoming 15G iPhone. It will lend an entirely new definition to customization and people will not only be able to customize various products but also be able to spread their ingenious innovations. Self-replicating robots can also revolutionize space travel as one self-replicating robot will be able to conjure up an entire robotic colony on a distant planet. These are only a few ordinary examples but the possibilities are incessant. A sci-fi nightmare coming true: Intelligent, self-replicating robots are what sci-fi nightmares are generally made of. Such robots have always occupied center stage when it comes to the doomsday scenarios in science fiction. One nefarious mind that might upload a depraving virus onto a self-replicating robot might be enough to wreck our planet. Imagine each robot tirelessly fighting and reproducing with the sole aim of devouring mankind. But for this to happen there need to be giant strides in A.I. Only robots as clever as humans will pose a real threat to mankind and not dim-witted robots with just exemplary reproductive skills.
Do try this at home: Anyone can download elaborate plans and tutorials to assemble the RepRap 3D printer for free from the official RepRap website.