I read lots of science fiction. Quite a few stories involve machines that can generate "things" on demand using only raw materials. These range from food generators/replicators to the ability to manufacture say a cell-phone on-the-fly.
The reason I'm waffling on about this is that I was just meandering my way around the RepRap website. To a large extent this is a self-replicating machine – a self-copying printer, if you will. The idea is that you can build ("print") three-dimensional plastic components that can be used to construct another 3D printer, and so forth.
Industrial versions of this type of technology already exist (I saw one several years ago at an automotive manufacturers show in Detroit that could "print" full-size mock-up engines), but they cost a whole bunch of money. By comparison, the folks at the RepRap website say that you can build your own RepRap machine for around 400 Euros in materials costs. Cool Beans. I want one!
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