Friday, April 06, 2007

Will Fabbers Change The World?

It seems inevitable that fabbers will cause an unprecedented revolution that will profoundly change the world. But of course, we should be cautious about making future predictions, given that nuclear fusion, which was 40 years away in 1960, is still 40 years away today. And just recently, I came across an article about the 21 Biggest Technology Flops. As home-based fabbers have only been available in the past 6 months, there are plenty of questions about this technology. One question is whether or not I will be able to fab with heavy metals. Another one is whether or not fabbers will be subject to Moore's Law.

A new Guardian article provides some optimism on the future of home-based fabrication.
Pushing the boundaries beyond simple shapes, Lipson has made a working battery, an electrically-activated polymer muscle and a touch sensor by printing different layers of material. His goal is to make a small robot with limbs, actuators, control circuitry and batteries.

The possibilities are limited by what you can extrude from interchangeable cartridges - quick-hardening plastic is the favourite, but the machine can also handle and layer plaster, Play-Doh, silicone, wax and metals or mixtures with a low melting point such as solder (made of tin and lead). Some users have found chocolate, cheese and cake icing (which may also be used as a temporary soluble support material for hollow structures) rewarding too.

This is plenty of progress in the space of 6 months on the first home-based fabber. Once RepRap demonstrates self-replication using fabbers, prepare for all hell to break loose.

"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
What do you want to build with your home-based fabber?

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