Thursday, October 28, 2004

Your Inkjet Printer as a Replicator

In a jag of hardware hacking, the humble inkjet printer is transformed into a crude fabricator. Disgorging a growing array of computer parts, complete working gadgets and solar cells is so... yesterday. Read on. The innovative twists emerging from Inkjet technology will stun you.

(This is part of a developing story about the rise of personal desktop fabrication and replicators).

3D Printing has been around since the 90's producing physical models directly from a computer version. The computer model is divided into thousands of extremely thin slices. Each slice is then printed out one on top of the other, normally in polymer. Large and very expensive.

However the technology which enables Inkjet printers to form images and text on paper can also be adapted to 3d modeling. Instead of ink, ANY material that can be powderized, (meaning practically everything) can be used.

Here are some examples of various materials including ceramics stainless steel, tungsten and tungsten carbide with complex internal structures as well as external and very rich textures

Complete Working Gadgets

Inkjet technology has also printed out entire working gadgets with the internal circuitry and the external housing as one fused whole. By printing layer upon layer of conducting and semiconducting polymers, the complete circuitry and housing are built in one go.

'Gadget printer' promises industrial revolution
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An example of how an electronic remote control will be printed out
Google Image Search "Gadget Printer"

Printing Electronic Circuits

Instead of drops of cyan, magenta and yellow ink, a uniquely charged drop of polymer becomes a nano pixel in a working printed electronic circuit. Working solar cells, lighting, even batteries have already emerged from the humble inkjet. A computer printing computer circuits simply from software instructions. That's only a stone's throw away from self replication.

Wearable Embedded Intelligence

Circuits can also be printed on cloth.
Original article
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And yet another genie has emerged from the bottle...

Researchers Hod Lipson and Jordan B. Pollack at Brandeis University have coupled inkjet technology and software to autonomously design and fabricate robots without human intervention.
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The software simulates a variety of rudimentary virtual robots. In an accelerated Darwinian contest of survival over hundreds of generations, the most successful robotic designs are then physically prototyped. Robots autonomously designing, testing and manufacturing robots.

Coming Soon From a Printer Near You

Hewlett-Packard is poised to "aggressively enter a range of new markets beyond printing, including television and computer displays, printed electronic circuits, automotive fuel-injection systems and even drug delivery for treatment of diseases like diabetes."
Google Search

In yet another "vein" inkjets are coughing up tissue.

Here's the very latest news on Rapid Prototyping technology

The Implications

The implications of 3d printing are perhaps more in the questions inspired than in what is produced.

What will be the effect of open source hardware? What happens when a desktop peripheral as economical as your printer manufactures custom computer circuitry, solar cells and batteries as cheap as wallpaper? Or when distributors ship a product as software, with the end user supplying the raw material. No distribution costs and instant delivery of a physical item. Or when autonomous robots fitted with accelerating computational intelligence design and manufacture their own next generation.


Jackal McLangley said...

In short: the collapse of our current economic system.

The base suppliers of raw materials would be safe (you need stuff to make stuff) but the middle men, the "manufacturers" with their various parasites of marketing etc.. would be cut out.

Even the printer-replicator makers wouldn't be safe since you could use the original replicators to make new ones.
Coupled with the free transfer of information (via the big WWW)it would seriously shoot the heck out of our current socio-economic system.

Ted Holmes said...

Add another one to the list. A machine that can rapid prototype and replicate itself is in development. It will be released as open source meaning anyone will be able to use the machine to copy itself and distribute them. Distributed desktop manufacturing is moving pretty fast now. There is no question as to the feasibility. It's only a matter of time.

We're very close.


Danila said...

Good summary of the developments and links.

Scott said...

Wow, cool! Now, can someone get to work--quickly!--on developing technology that can disassemble the deluge of *stuff* everyone will be making? Otherwise, won't waste start piling up quickly, and raw materials become scarce?

Tarun said...

hi guys,
iam trying to implement a new technology in which i am using a inkjet printer to basically spread a combination of different flavors of perfume on a sheet of printing paper...
i would appreciate if you would provide with your valuable ideas which would help me in moving ahead with this idea...