3D printer that prints itself gets closer to reality

The RepRap is an open 3D printer design whose goal is to produce a printer that can copy itself. Now, Joris from i.materialise says, "The Open3DP team at the University of Washington's Solheim Rapid Prototyping Laboratory have succeeded in cloning the plastic parts of the RepRap Prusa. The Prusa is the most accessible 3D printer the RepRap project has and this development allows for the quicker and cheaper production of 3D printers. By making molds the plastic parts for the 3D printer can be made in under half an hour. Furthermore, the team is going to give away the STLs of the molds so that people worldwide can make their own Prusas."

Cloning the RepRap Prusa in under 30 minutes (Thanks, Joris!)


  1. Any news on recyclable printing stock? so that one can print dishes or similar and then grind them back up to print new ones if they break?

    1. The RepRap community usually prints in PLA, which is made from starch (corn, potatoes, etc) and completely biodegradeable. Most other printers use ABS, which is made from oil, and not biodegradeable, but it is recyclable.

      And making the plastic parts in molds is in no way closer to self-replication. The model the plastic parts are for (the Prusa) could be said to be closer to self-replication because it uses fewer plastic parts than the original Mendel. But it would be a stretch.

      1. well to my untrained eyes the molds seems to be more of a shortcut as they do not have to wait for the parts to be printed. The design of the parts however allows for both molding and 3d printing, so one have the option to do either depending on what one have available and time for.

  2. All we need now is for the printers to find energy and matter resources for themselves, as well as space travel capability and we have self-replicating probes

  3. Closer to reality? More like “accomplished years ago”. Heck, the Reprap Mendel in my hackerspace (itself a child of another mendel) has already printed three working children.

    This is just about making the parts faster.

  4. Decades ago I remember a short story about aliens dropping off a pair of duplicators on Earth to see how the economy would or wouldn’t adjust. Does that ring any bells with anyone out there? (The Earth passed the test despite some people thinking “Wall Street would be a jungle tomorrow”, IRRC).

  5. Honestly this whole thing reminds me of David Gingery and his whole set of books on creating a modern metal-working shop from scratch.

    I mean, he goes from a makeshift charcoal foundry in a bucket to sand-casted metal parts, eventually building a complete working metal lathe and using -THAT- basic lathe to build a better variable speed lathe, a drill press, shaper, and even a milling machine.

    Reading those books was like getting a walkthrough on the evolution of the machine shop. You could see how everything piggybacked upon other machines, assembling something greater than the sum of it’s parts.

    I look forward to a future of printed objects. It’s an idea that is destined to be game-changing.

    1. And this is why the very concept of patents are fucked beyond belief, and that Newton nailed it when he said he stood on the shoulders of giants. Things evolve, they do not do repeated revolutionary jumps of “innovation”, no matter how much the marketing machines of the various “industries” wants us to think otherwise.

  6. I got to see a RepRap in action this past weekend. It was really cool. It was limited to printing something approximately the size of a four-inch cube, so they’re using it to print parts for a bigger one.

  7. Hm… the title of your blog post is a little misleading. The main hurdles in achieving a fully self-replicating printer are still (a) hardware (precision metal bars, nuts and bolts, motors etc.) and (b) electronics. This new development doesn’t get us *any* closer to a printer that can print itself. It just allows them to produce the plastic parts (which were already 3D-printable) much faster.

    I know, it’s a nitpick. But I was kinda disappointed reading the article, after such a sweeping title…

  8. Did I misread the article? It seems that what they’ve done is take the plastic parts, make a mold out of them (NOT using a RepRap), and make plastic parts out of the molds (again NOT using a RepRap). That doesn’t seem to me to have anything to do with self-printing.

  9. I’ve been following the development of the RepRap for some time now, and it’s obvious I have to make one now. I’ve been putting it off for financial reasons, but this is significantly more important to me than getting a stupid diamond for the girlfriend (it’s 2011, isn’t the religion hangover known as marriage dead yet!?).

    Also it was great to see RepRap featured in Zeitgeist: Moving Forward. The future might actually occur in my lifetime!

  10. This is all good, just as long as we don’t get to the point where machines that can hunt mutants can use surrounding objects as parts to put themselves together.

    That’s better left on the pages of New X-Men, I think!

  11. Oh and i was thinking “in shop/shed/room” recyclable, rather then having to send away or wait for nature to do its thing.

  12. From what I’ve read about recycling parts back into raw material one of the problematic parts is in recasting it into a bubble-free rod. The extruder nozzle is only about 0.5mm in diameter, so any bubbles can easily break the thread of plastic.

    Maybe the extruder could be fed from an evacuated hopper.

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