NASA’s Self-replicating Spaceships > > >

NASA investing in self-building spaceship research

NASA has invested $100,000 in SpiderFab, a firm that is looking at the feasibility of launching a 3DPrinter into space for stellar self-constructing stations and  potentially massive ships with a greater degree of complexity than has currently been possible.

The benefit of such an approach is that there would be no need to worry about designing the ship to withstand lift-off, which massively complicates the current design processes and greatly increases the cost, nor requiring it to fold up into the confines of lift-off vehicles.
NASA believes the conceptual quantum leap of self-assembling ships could seek raw materials for assembly and thus self-repair, in space, from asteroids, or even recycle broken satellites in orbit.
The technology, as it developes, could lead to self-constructing satellites and telescopes, interstellar spacecraft, and much larger space stations.
2D-Printers on Earth are printing science-fiction -soon 3DPrinters in space will be printing the real thing.

The 3DPrinter Clone Debate – Tangibot > > >


Matt Strong has invented a 3DPrinter called the TangiBot.

More precisely, he built an exact replica of the MakerBot Replicator 3DPrinter. He is attempting to raise  £315,000 (US$500,000) on Kickstarter to fund the  production of the device.

For the majority of product concepts he would be met with a swift cease-and-desist Interlectual Copywrite warning letter, but the MakerBot Replicator is OpenSource… meaning anyone can copy it and sell it.

What TangiBot lacks in design innovation it makes up for in cost. The entry-level version will sell at £755 (US$1,199) compared to  £1,134 (US$1,799) for a MakerBot Replicator.

Despite his good intentions and impressive track record, Strong is getting a lot of flak from the 3DPrinting community. Many object to the notion of using OpenSource plans to undercut the original inventor on price without changing the design.

Strong however is positive about his TangiBot: “I want to bring a low-cost machine to market that people can trust. The Replicator is the best and completely open source. I discussed the licenses with lawyers, and it’s totally legit. I want more people getting involved, designing their own tools at home, but so few people get a chance to experience 3D printing, for more people to do it, the prices have to come down. We used the same technology when I was in college. The big difference was that those printers cost $50,000 (£32,000).”

He says TangiBot is doing its part to accelerate adoption of the printers by making the machines cheaper, and eventually better.

Phillip Torrone, the creative director at AdaFruit Industries was one of the big names who weighed in on the TangiBot Kickstarter page: “Being able to copy or ‘clone’ open source and Open-Source Hardware (OSHW) is not only OK, it’s celebrated, OSHW has a goal of not only having good designs shared, but the desire to add value to the world when it’s shared and improvements are made.”

With 15 days to go and only $24,010 raised of his $500,000 goal, it seems unlikely that Strong’s TangiBot will get its kick-off, at least on Kickstarter – but whether or not the campaign succeeds, the project may serve as a turning point for OpenSource and split the community into two: One party that celebrates design achievements and interesting hacks, the another focused on supply-chain management and logistics.

Adapted from:

Introducing Self-Replicating 3DPrinters > > >

KEY: DATE [number of units] event

Graph of working RepRaps

Spring 2007 [1]  The first RepRap Darwin was finished. Its parts were made in a Stratasys Dimension. During that summer the RepRap team made four or five sets of parts for the machine in the Stratasys and sent them to new RepRap owners around the world.

30 September 2007 [3]  Vik Olliver in New Zealand finished the second Darwin.

Christmas 2007 A number of people start to make wooden and lasercut copies of Darwin. The Bath RepRap Lab also supplied a Stratasys-printed set of Darwin parts to Ian Adkins of Bits from Bytes, who created silicone moulds from them and started selling Darwin copies made by PU moulding.

February 21, 2008 [8] Zach Smith, later of MakerBot, produces his first RepRap Darwin.

February 22, 2008 [20]  Ponoko produce a lasercut version of the RepRap Darwin.

Spring 2008 [40] Many wooden and moulded Darwin-type Repstraps are working, and people start using them to print RepRaps.

Summer 2009 [100] RepRap Mendel introduced.

Christmas 2010 [400] eBay mass production line selling of RepRap 3DPrinted sets of parts for RepRaps.

Summer 2010 [1500] Around 1500 RepRaps produced.

Spring 2011 [4000] One RepRap member alone has made over 100 RepRaps for other people.