MakerBot Grows Up

I've always been doubtful of rapid prototyping as the basis for some sort of home industrial revolution. As my co-author Everett has demonstrated, MakerBot is far from ready as an appliance, and even if it were, I doubt that there is much of a market for tiny plastic trinkets.

Now this is where it begins to take off. The army has deployed self-contained machine shops to Iraq and Afghanistan to build replacement parts as close to the front line as possible. Now, CAD-CAM milling machines are nothing new, but as a self-contained unit, something like this is unique. I think to become a successful technology, RepRap has to become truly self-replicating, which means determining the minimum number of materials necessary to support a RepRap, and a way to build all the necessary modules using the RepRap itself.

The end goal of a self-contained, self-replicating industrial complex may be impossible sort of magical nanotech (or alternatively, the factory-machine is just huge.) But the idea of a device that can be dropped into the wilderness with a minimum of rare elements, and proceed to construct all the necessities of technological civilization is too attractive for me to just give up on.


  1. I'm using a CNC mill at a boston hackerspace at the moment, so I'm pleased to see your CNC post. I will do a writeup of all the projects I've attempted on this little trip, once I get back. To quote K, this is "a means of creation, not a means of production". But this article demonstrates that fab-labs are also useful when one does not want to wait for the slow turnaround of mass produced parts. So, if the number of parts needed is small, fab-labs vastly accelerate the prototype-test-revise cycle. It mentions that they can update parts in the field using these labs. Perhaps, if rapid prototyping costs become cheaper, the overhead will be eclipsed by the total time saved, making these labs a good source of manufactured good for anyone too impatient to wait for shipping or for a batch run in China.

  2. Wait Boston, have you checked out MITers yet?

    Also,I now realize that when I was bashing Fabricators as nothing more than a fad a few months back I hadn't taken into account using afabricators as standard home repair kits

  3. Indeed, I used MakerBot to fix my refrigerator. But the part was too small to print easily and it took a couple days of calibration to figure it out. A mill would have been better. I think community owned machine shops are the way to go, less duplication of machinery. I also have been to MITERS.

  4. Did you try the death blades or see the resurrected blinky board?

  5. this is actually a good question : what rare elements are necessary ?

    I know that neodymium is needed for good magnets, and one of the yttrium sounding elements is needed for the highish temperature cuprite superconductors ( may be alternatives though ). Anything else ? Arsenic isn't that rare. Are gallium and gold necessary for semiconductors ?