[LINK] home factory

Kim Holburn kim at holburn.net
Mon Dec 4 16:58:23 AEDT 2006

Another one of things I wasn't sure I'd ever see in my lifetime.   
Maybe I will.


> The make-everything machine
> You're at home in the not too distant future when you decide you'd  
> like some new garden chairs or a new pair of shoes.
> Instead of heading down to the shops, you jump on-line, select a  
> design you like and hit the return key.
> In the corner your ``universal constructor'' unit whirrs into life  
> and using a blend of plastics, ceramics and metals quickly fashions  
> to order the object you've chosen.
> It sounds like pure science fiction, but British academics are  
> leading a campaign for such devices to be installed into homes.
> The University of Bath's RepRap project is fine-tuning a rapid  
> prototyper - a kind of 3D model maker - with a view to making it  
> affordable and capable of reproducing itself.
> In a breakthrough that could eventually see reprap device spread  
> rapidly through the world, one of the machines recently succeeded  
> in producing one of its own moving parts.
> ``Initially (the prototyper will make) items like coat hooks, cat  
> flaps and combs,'' said project leader, Dr Adrian Bowyer.
> ``But we are already working on getting it to do electronics  
> automatically; that will move us up to mobile phones and MP3  
> players.''
> Rapid prototyping devices have been around since the 1980s and are  
> used to produce components for industry, such as vehicle parts.  
> They resemble printers for computers except they produce a 3-D  
> rather than 2-D product.
> A three-dimensional model of the object to be created is drawn on a  
> computer. A program then converts the model into a series of cross  
> sections.
> The cross-section data is sent to a rapid prototyping machine which  
> builds the desired object a single layer at a time by laying down  
> plastics.
> The end product may require glueing and machines used in the  
> process typically cost about $65,000.
> But the Bath team hope to take the concept much further.
> In a project which began in 2005 they are working to develop a  
> refrigerator-sized prototyper that would cost just $750 to build  
> from plans freely available over the internet.
> It is hoped the devices will ultimately be able to produce products  
> made from plastic, ceramic and metal. The team sees a day when most  
> consumers would have one of the devices in their homes and ``print  
> out'' products as they need them.
> Objects which theoretically could be made by the device include  
> clothes, toys, furniture, boats and tools.
> It is also hoped the machines could ultimately produce themselves  
> or at least the majority of their components, lowering production  
> costs still further.
> Researchers working on the project have constructed three different  
> early versions of the prototyping device. In September this year  
> one of them succeeded in producing a part for itself.
> ``Before flat screens, every home had a vacuum-tube television,''  
> Bowyer said.
> ``RepRap is simpler than a vacuum-tube television, and to get a  
> RepRap you just have to ask your neighbour who has one to copy it  
> for you - you don't even need to go to a shop.''

Kim Holburn
IT Network & Security Consultant
Ph/F: +61 2 62577881 M: +61 417820641
mailto:kim at holburn.net  aim://kimholburn
skype://kholburn - PGP Public Key on request

Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny.
                           -- Lloyd Biggle, Jr. Analog, Apr 1961

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