Friday, September 10, 2010

Things that Make Things

I understand there's a whole movement to machines that can make arbitrary objects. Usually, they're step-motored plastic fabricators, that melt plastic into specific shapes, given to them by CAD design. They also have a second compound that melts away in water, so one can cast shapes that would have fallen apart without support, but can become their final shape after a quick rinse. (Like an arch. It would have collapsed without support while building, but once built, the supports can be taken away because now the keystone holds it in place.) Most of these can make a very large percentage of their own parts, thus being semi "self assembling."
Some examples of this include the reprap, the "cupcake", Fab@home, and even a "gadget printer".
I love it because it's the closest we can have with today's technology to the "replicators" of science fiction that can grind out anything of your choosing. And maybe 99% of all jobs would disappear if that sort of thing became common, but in the right milieu , so would the need for jobs. I especially like that they can make copies of themselves, as most of them are rather expensive. (The cheapest one costs $500 USD!) And yet the plastic parts they're made of cost maybe 50 cents total, and the metal nozzle on the extruder is maybe another $3 at most.


ralleywolf said...

Dude I read the title of this latest post and thought: Machines making Machines.

I thought: robots doing what humans do... Thinking, analyzing, improving- making better machines!

Terminator 2 Judgment Day! Paranoid Fantasies of a doomed apocalypse! Robots and machines become the apex species!

Heres a tasty, read of a link I might drop on you...

It's an essay about the threat of just such a fantastical possibility. It makes for good Hollywood and good blogging.

Mad Engineering said...

That was an interesting read. I would be afraid of military-made robots.

Reprap made things, though, are made of cheap plastic. Anything made by a reprap that gets out of control, I can easily destroy with a hammer. Or a flamethrower. (The plastic is designed to melt at a low temperature, which is how it gets shaped in the first place.)

TJ said...

Its a printer though, ergo they would seriously have you over a barrel when it came to new cartriges

Mad Engineering said...

Not really, TJ. Reprap is made by people seriously into open source, and so is the Muffin-cake-whatever thing. Both can be supplied from a cheap wire of thermoplastic. Making money on printer cartridge just isn't their thing.

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