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Look at your computer setup and imagine that you hooked up a 3D printer. Instead of printing on bits of paper this 3D printer makes real, robust, mechanical parts. To give you an idea of how robust, think Lego bricks and you're in the right area. You could make lots of useful stuff, but interestingly you could also make most of the parts to make another 3D printer. That would be a machine that could copy itself.
The word RepRap is short for Replicating Rapid-prototyper. It is the practical self-copying 3D printer introduced in the video on the left - a self-replicating machine. This 3D printer builds the parts up in layers of plastic. This technology existed before RepRap, but the cheapest commercial machine then would have cost you about €30,000. And it wasn't even designed so that it could make itself. So what the RepRap team are doing is to develop and to give away the designs for a much cheaper machine with the novel capability of being able to self-copy (material costs are about €350). That way it's accessible to small communities in the developing world as well as individuals in the developed world. Following the principles of the Free Software Movement we are distributing the RepRap machine at no cost to everyone under an open source license (the GNU General Public License). So, if you have a RepRap machine, you can use it to make another and give that one to a friend...
The RepRap project became widely known after a large press coverage in March 2005.
Not counting nuts and bolts the latest RepRap can make 70% of its parts; the other parts are designed to be cheaply available everywhere. The primary goal of the RepRap project is to create and to give away a makes-useful-stuff machine that, among other things, allows its owner cheaply and easily to make another such machine for someone else.
To increase that 70%, future versions of RepRap will be able to make their own electric circuitry - a technology we have already proved experimentally - though not their electronic chips. After that we'll look to doing transistors with it, and so on...
Scholarship and History
Academics and others seeking peer-reviewed journal articles on RepRap may care to start with this paper in Robotica. The citation and link are:
- Jones, R., Haufe, P., Sells, E., Iravani, P., Olliver, V., Palmer, C., and Bowyer, A.,: RepRap - The Replicating Rapid Prototyper, Robotica (2011) volume 29, pp. 177–191. Cambridge University Press.
For great insight to RepRap as a self replictor see:
- Bowyer, A., 2014. 3D printing and humanity's first imperfect replicator. 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, 1(1), pp.4-5. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/3dp.2013.0003
If you are interested in the legal aspects of this technology, then you may care to read this paper:
- Bradshaw, S., Bowyer, A. and Haufe, P.: The Intellectual Property Implications Of Low-Cost 3D Printing, ScriptEd, April 2010 pp.5-31. Also available here.
If you are interested in how the RepRap can be used to assist in sustainable development see:
- J. M. Pearce, C.M. Blair, K.J. Laciak, R. Andrews, A. Nosrat, and I. Zelenika-Zovko, 3-D Printing of Open Source Appropriate Technologies for Self-Directed Sustainable Development, Journal of Sustainable Development', 3(4), 17-29, 2010.'
If you are interested in the economics of RepRap see:
- B.T. Wittbrodt, A.G. Glover, J. Laureto, G.C. Anzalone, D. Oppliger, J.L. Irwin, J.M. Pearce (2013), Life-cycle economic analysis of distributed manufacturing with open-source 3-D printers, Mechatronics, 23 (2013), pp. 713-726. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mechatronics.2013.06.002 open access (self built Mendel)
- Emily E. Petersen and Joshua Pearce. Emergence of Home Manufacturing in the Developed World: Return on Investment for Open-Source 3-D Printers. Technologies 2017, 5(1), 7; doi:10.3390/technologies5010007 open access (commercial Lulzbot RepRap)
- Emily E. Petersen, Romain W. Kidd, Joshua M. Pearce, Impact of DIY Home Manufacturing with 3-D Printing on the Toy and Game Market. Technologies 2017, 5(3), 45; doi: 10.3390/technologies5030045 open access
- Aubrey L. Woern and Joshua M. Pearce. Distributed Manufacturing of Flexible Products: Technical Feasibility and Economic Viability, Technologies 2017, 5(4), 71; doi:10.3390/technologies5040071 open access
- André O. Laplume, Bent Petersen, Joshua M. Pearce, Global value chains from a 3D printing perspective, Journal of International Business Studies 47(5), 595–609 (2016). doi:10.1057/jibs.2015.47 open access
If you are interested in the environmental benefits of RepRap see:
- Megan Kreiger and Joshua M. Pearce (2013). Environmental Life Cycle Analysis of Distributed 3-D Printing and Conventional Manufacturing of Polymer Products, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, Engineering, 1 (12), (2013) pp. 1511–1519DOI: 10.1021/sc400093k Open access
- Megan Kreiger and Joshua M. Pearce (2013). Environmental Impacts of Distributed Manufacturing from 3-D Printing of Polymer Components and Products. MRS Online Proceedings Library, 1492, mrsf12-1492-g01-02 open access
There is also a study on the spread of RepRap and its population:
- Erik de Bruijn: On the viability of the open source development model for the design of physical objects, November 8th 2010, University of Tilburg, The Netherlands.
For a reasonably up-to-date literature review of RepRap technology see:
To get a copy of the entire RepRap Blog from its very start as a single PDF file download this (41MB; thanks to Gary Hodgson). The images in the early posts of the online blog are broken, but they are all in that file.
There are many reports, student RepRap projects and theses that are available as PDF files from this site. They are all linked from relevant pages but in addition we should, perhaps, index them as well. In the mean time you can get a complete list of all of them by following this link.
Spread the Word
You can freely use the RepRap Logo (see the licence terms on the left) and QR code:
- RepRap - n. any free rapid prototyping machine that can manufacture a significant fraction of its own parts; v.t. (in lower case: to reprap) to make something in a RepRap machine.
- RepStrap - n. any free rapid prototyping machine that doesn't make its own parts, but is intended to make parts for a RepRap.
- reprapper - n. a person engaged in making or using RepRaps or RepStraps.
- reprapable - adj. capable of being made in a RepRap machine.
Here is a recent talk and Q&A by Adrian Bowyer about RepRap and self-replicating manufacturing machines.