Saturday, March 19, 2022

Own your own factory, that makes more factories

3D printing philosophy is provided to us by Adrian Bowyer, the founder of the RepRap project.

RepRap stands for self replicating rapid prototype.

The theory was initially thought of by John von Neumann in the 1940s with his Universal Constructor concept. His universal constructor is a self-replicating machine in a cellular automata (CA) environment. The states of the cells change at discrete time-steps. The new state of a cell is computed from the previous states of the connected neighboring cells using predefined rules. He proved that the dynamics exhibited by such a cellular automaton are similar to the biological processes involved in self-reproduction.

The original idea of a Universal Constructor was of a machine that would both self-copy and self-assemble - as a bacterium or a daffodil do.

In nature all four possibilities exist: things that neither self-copy nor self-assemble, like rocks; things that self-copy but don't self-assemble, like viruses; things that self-assemble but don't self-copy, like proteins; and finally things that both self-copy and self-assemble, like you and me

In 1970, John Conway introduced a CA called Game of Life which was in digital form only. See the wikipedia entry, Conway's Game of Life, for an overview

Building further on this background Adrian Bowyer developed the RepRap project. RepRap is like biology, machines making their own parts. This is because it can self-replicate with the symbiotic assistance of a person. Anything that can copy itself immediately and inescapably becomes subject to Darwinian selection, but RepRap has one important difference from natural organisms: in nature, mutations are random, and only a tiny fraction are improvements; but with RepRap, every mutation is a product of the analytical thought of its users. This means that the rate of improvement should be very rapid, at least at the start; it is more analogous to selective breeding

The most practical / realistic prototype so far is the open source 3D printer. (open hardware, open software).

Open source is far more open to evolution than proprietary. I’m aware of several open source 3D printer companies. From these, I chose Prusa since their reviews are so good. Recently I built a Prusa i3 MK3S+ from a kit and was very impressed by the community. This took the form of very helpful build instructions with comments added by fellow builders. This is normal for open source communities but foreign to proprietary communities.

This article is just a brief summary of some of the key ideas behind the Rep Rap project, led by Adrian Bowyer. The references provide more detail.

TEDxEWB - Adrian Bowyer - Replicating Rapid Prototyper Talk 16min 2010 London
He finishes this talk with “why can’t everyone own their own factory, that makes more factories

Wealth without Money (2004) by Adrian Bowyer
I have borrowed heavily from this essay

The Self-replicating Rapid Prototyper – Manufacturing for the Masses (2006)
There are essentially three parts to any rapid prototyping machine:
  • One or more material-deposition or write heads
  • A Cartesian robot, and
  • The software to drive them
Why is 3D printing such a powerful way to make solid objects? (2013)
Because additive works 2D at a time (layer on layer) it is far simpler than subtractive, cutting out from a solid block (which requires 5 dimensions + other considerations)

Best Open-Source 3D Printers of 2021 | All3DP

REPRAP self replicating rapid prototyper
RepRap is humanity's first general-purpose self-replicating manufacturing machine.

Rep Rap Ltd
RepRap Ltd was established in 2009 and specialises in research and development in self-replicating open-source 3D printing.