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« Forum in Baltimore | Main | Code of Ethics »

June 07, 2005


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Tom Craver

I think it's a cool idea - but the "self-replication" angle is really just a way around the "chicken-egg" problem of how to create a mass market for desktop fabricators. I.e. there isn't much demand now because of the high prices - so get the price down by cutting out the assembly costs.

This is pretty much how the PC market got bootstrapped - kit builders avoided the high cost of low volume computers. Bowyer is going to trigger the same thing for desktop fab machines.

Right now the vast majority of people would wonder why they'd want a "desktop factory" in their home. In about 10 or 20 years, people will start getting concerned about "Fab-gaps" between rich and poor kids, and there'll be a push to get fabbers into every classroom. :-)

Here's my "just for fun" timeline:
-Bowyer gets a crude RepRap fabber to duplicate most of its own parts
- A small group of Fab-hackers build their own RepRap fabbers
- A website is of course set up for them to share their cool designs and tweaks to the RepRap
- The first pornographic design is published
- RepRap part kits become available (on the internet, of course)
- The number of active Fackers grows 20 fold - still a small number.
- A few assembled RepRaps are available for sale
- An couple of alternative fabber designs come out - and each soon has its own website offering designs to run on it and kits of parts for sale. Some of them use different principles and materials. Most of these secondary fabbers can't "self-replicate" - but many of their parts can be made by the RepRap.
- FabCon has several hundred attendees, despite the worst snowstorm in years.
- A few fabber hobby-businesses are up and running - most selling stuff to fackers, but one is trying to franchise a fabber-based business idea.
- A new fabber design automates embedding LEDs, starting a wave of new fabber designs that automate embedding various types of parts. Soon it looks like there will be dozens or hundreds of incompatible fabbers.
- The alternative material fabbers are starting to be considered "peripheral devices" - useful options.
- FabCon2 is a massive, overcrowded success - many kits are sold. A smaller Con happens on the other coast.
- The latest fabber adds a simple robotic arm to pick from four hoppers of the most commonly embedded parts and position them to be embedded in objects.
- By the end of the year, a design boasting 12 hoppers is available.
- Year of the FabCons - every major city seems to have one. One tops 5000 attendees.
- A fabber with a robotic arm and a camera for pattern recognition to pick mixed parts from a bin is available (but it will never work very well)
- Another fabber design standardizes on four physical parts package sizes, cleverly using the fabber itself to make carriers for any of a wide variety of components. (Fackers still have to manually load parts into carriers and carriers into the hoppers in the correct order.)
- Parts already loaded in carriers on sale
- An enhancement on the carrier idea marks each carrier with a machine readable code. A fabber can scan for a desired part in it's four hoppers, and sorts the parts into the correct order for use.
- The latest fabber design features 10 micron feature size.
- Committee forms to standardize carrier labelling
- Inexpensive commercial fabbers are available for those who just want to use them.
- Fackers call anyone who doesn't build their own fabber a "Fluser" - "They're missing the whole point of facking!"
- Rumors in early April of a nano-fabber...prove to be false.
- Some claim the rumor denials are a cover-up for a secret government Nanhattan project. They're right :-)

Tom Mazanec

Has some fascinating info on "fabs"

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