08 April 2008

Printing out the future

A research team based in New Zealand, Britain, and the US has developed a remarkable new 3D printer which has encouraging implications for the future of technology.

The RepRap printer prints three-dimensional objects, including components which can be assembled into more complex devices. That, in itself, is not new; the use of printer-like technology to produce physical objects and even organic structures is a young but established and rapidly-advancing field. What's remarkable about the RepRap printer is that it can make copies of itself. Every component of the printer can itself be produced on the printer. The actual assembly of the components presumably has to be done by a human, but this is nevertheless a major step toward a true self-replicating machine -- which makes it also a major step toward the Drexlerian vision of nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing and the world of limitless abundance those things will provide.

It's still a huge challenge to develop machines far more complex than printers which are both (1) capable of true self-replication including assembly, and (2) comparable in size to bacteria, but it has always been the self-replication that struck me as the more daunting of the two parts of the problem. We have been building simple nano-scale machines for some time, after all. Now self-replication, too, has taken a step out of imagination and into reality.



Anonymous handmaiden said...

This is simply fascinating! What is happening in the world of science & technology blows my mind. The future is not dark.

09 April, 2008 05:41  

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