“I think that within 10 years private individuals will be able to make for themselves virtually any manufactured product that is today sold by industry. I sometimes wonder if politicians realise that the entire basis of the human economy is about to undergo the biggest change since the invention of money.” Adrian Bowyer, RepRap
That’s a powerful statement right there. And I’m starting to hear more and more of this as I learn about what’s going on in development centers like the Fab Labs Neil Gershenfeld talks about in his TEDtalk and the Computational Synthesis Lab at Cornell University.
In my previous post on Neil Gershenfeld , he talked about how technology will allow everyday people to create their own local solutions (although maybe not with local designs) to local problems and how personal manufacturing with home fabbers will completely change the way we buy the goods for our homes. Fabbing is literally teleportation. Designs of goods that can be fabricated at home in the amounts and to the requirements you need, completely displacing how goods are manufactured and distributed today.
Here’s a glimpse into what RepRap is doing now in taking a step toward that. RepRap is an open source project on building a self-replicating 3D printer (or referred to as a fab machine, fabber, fabricator). This is a three-axis robot that extrudes molten plastic or other readily accessible materials such as metal and ceramics in layers. Have a look at this time-lapse “printing” of a corner bracket made of plastic for Darwin, the 3D printer.
Now while this is not a perfect result (the output gets mangled in the end because it moved) this still showcases the progress they’ve made. According to RepRap home page, they’re aiming to replicate by next year!
A lot of you might be asking, “What’s the point?” The point is that a return to the distributed manufacturing model of the past, where everything was made locally for local consumption BUT with the addition of distributed creativity through the web, where you get your ideas from the best and brightest no matter where they are, can truly drive sustainability and innovation. It’s not a question of giving up the benefits of cost and innovation driven by global manufacturing, it’s the logical next step in having those benefits but saving the planet as well.
And if you don’t believe me, sign up for the Ponoko beta program and join us for the ride.