Imagine a school where a student could sketch out an idea for a new design of bicycle and not only draw it in 3D using a computer-aided design package but actually create a scale-model and test it out, using inexpensive materials and a special printer that they can build themselves in the classroom.
That's the vision put forward by Ben O'Steen, a software engineer with a social conscience who is thinking about the implications of a world where 3D printers are no longer just expensive prototyping systems for large companies but have fallen into the hands of the masses.
He has been inspired by the RepRap, a desktop 3D printer capable of printing plastic parts by extruding a heated thermoplastic polymer under computer control, which then sets as it cools and makes a usable object.
The RepRap project was started in 2005 by Adrian Bowyer, who teaches mechanical engineering at Bath University.
The schematics and all aspects are freely licensed for anyone to implement or adapt, and the current version, called "Mendel", can be built for around £350.
From BBC News
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