Scientists build robot that can replicate itself

Machine designed to create 3-D plastic objects based on blueprint.

English researchers have developed a robot that can not only create 3D replicas of objects like shoes and door handles - it also can replicate itself.

Scientists from the University of Bath in England unveiled an open-source machine that acts like a three-dimensional printer. Instead of printing out documents or pictures on paper, this printer uses blueprints to produce 3D plastic objects.

The machine has been dubbed RepRap, which is short for replicating rapid-prototyper.

The goal is to eventually build a robot that can produce individual processors and circuit boards so people can build their own computers, according to Zack Smith, director of the RepRap Research Foundation.

"It's a printing press for the digital age," Smith told Computerworld. "The goal is to have one on everyone's desk. If it could build circuit boards, someone could design and build their own at home. Open-source electronics is a movement that's really taking hold."

While 3D printers have been commercially available for about 25 years, RepRap is the first that can essentially create its own structural parts, said team member, Vik Olliver, in a written statement.

Smith explained that unlike a regular printer that uses ink, RepRap heats up plastic and then squeezes it out into a line. The lines are built up into usable forms as they solidify. So far, the robot has made everyday plastic objects, like door handles, sandals and coat hooks. The machine has also successfully copied all of its own structural pieces.

For a full replication of all its own parts, Smith said that might be as far away as 20 years down the road. "Being able to replicate a computer chip would take a whole lot of precision," he added. "For me, the exciting part is we're building a tool that can build other things."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?