Printing A Penguin

A Presentation by Vik Olliver

At LCA 2006, an early prototype mechanism for the RepRap Project was shown to the Linux and Open Source community. Participants were shown how we believed it would be possible to produce a completely Open Source machine that was capable of making most of its own parts. Now the prototype has reached the point where it can reliably print the first of its own plastic components using an entirely Open Source toolchain, bringing the plan to life. Now we're attending to the practical details, we've moved to the stage where the project is not just about the creation of Open Source hardware and Open Source software, but how people across the globe can cooperate in this new arena.

The RepRap was envisaged from the outset as a practical approach to a machine capable of self-fabrication, rather than a theoretical approach to produce a perfectly self-contained, replicating system. Over the last year, we've had the opportunity to put our theories about how a RepRap should work to test in the real world. The presentation shows what approaches worked - such as fusion deposition modelling - and details some of the important lessons learned from the approaches that failed - like the use of icing as a support material. Though we're far from finished, we can say that we know the remaining challenges in much greater detail.

Even with its first self-replicated parts barely cooled, the RepRap is being recognised as not just an end in itself, but as a tool that can be used to create such diverse things as art, gadgets, medicines and a little bit of controversy. RepRap is an evolving tool to allow people to make what they want. Though we can't claim to know what that is, we've a fair idea what is needed to allow them to make the necessary adaptations. As with all things Open Source, we're not in the business of telling people what they can and can't do once they have the technology, whether we agree with them or not.

We want to show how we did it, and more importantly how you can do it too - not forgetting a very practical demonstration of the use of these machines to create models of Tux the Penguin!

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