I first became aware of RepRap in early 2005. At that point, it was all very theoretical and blue-sky. But the idea appealed to me. What’s the idea? It’s this: If you have a machine that can print 3D objects, maybe, just maybe you could print the parts to make another machine just like it. I liked this idea so much that I emailed Adrian Bowyer, the person who came up with it. To my surprise, he replied.
I ended up getting involved in the RepRap project and at one point I was (technically) part of the “core team”. To be honest, most of my work on the team was torture-testing various aspects of the machines and reporting on my failures. I was very good at it. I had a lot of failures.
Since then, though, the RepRap project has matured quite a bit and has spawned several similar projects. As a result, these machines are becoming cheaper, easier to build and easier to use. Over the past six years, they’ve gone from concept to something a reasonably skilled person can put together over a weekend.
And they’re still improving. It shouldn’t be much longer before it’s to the point where you just push a button and it works. It’s sort of like going from the bellows and flash powder camera to the Instamatic in less than a decade. These things are going to end up in the hands of a lot of interesting and creative people. Try to imagine the 3D printer equivalent of Annie Leibovitz.
Now, I could go on and on about what RepRap is all about (and I’ve been known to do just that on numerous occasions) but it’s probably better to let the man himself do it. Below is a talk Adrian gave last year. It runs about 50 minutes but it’s well worth watching. It’s interesting to hear him compare the progress of the RepRap machine to evolution and selective breeding. It’s no coincidence that the first two models of RepRap are name “Darwin” and “Mendel“.