Shot a life coach in Reno, just to watch him re-evaluate personal goals.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Plastics for pleasure and profit
At the moment, the Reprap can print half of its own parts – the rest, says Bowyer, "we have deliberately chosen so that they are completely standard bits and pieces that anyone can get anywhere in the world". The next goal is to get to the point of full self-replication. Bowyer's aspirations, however, go a lot further than that.
"I would like it ultimately to be cheap enough for everybody to own," he says, "and that's including the world's poorest people. Cheap enough for everyone to own and to be versatile enough that we could print a significant fraction of everything we need using the machine itself. Rather than using factories and shops and having trucks going up and down the motorway and raw materials having to be shifted around and so on, not only will the machine copy itself it will work with a raw material that will copy itself.
"How can it do that?" he continues. "The answer is that it will work with a plastic made from plants and if you've tens of square metres of land you have your own supply of raw material. Not only that, every time you use it, it's taking carbon out of the atmosphere."
Is there something wrong with this picture? As you known I am not one those scientific boffins, but it seems to me that making more plastic things is not going to save the planet. The journeys of plastic things invariably end in the sea, while the growing of plants for plastics does not seem particularly helpful when the world faces the prospect of another food crisis cause in part by the growing of plants for biofuels. On the other hand, printing objects found on Internet does seem like an awful lot of fun, so we probably will do it and damn the planet.