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RepRap 3D printer
Meet RepRap - the 3D printer that can print out copies of itself.
RepRap is a free desktop 3D printer made largely out of parts that can be printed using a RepRap printer. The 3D printer is designed to be a self-replicating machine that allows people to print off RepRaps for their friends and family to use.
The RepRap can print out more than half of its own parts and most other parts, such as nuts and bolts, can be bought from hardware stores. It costs about £300 to print a RepRap, compared to a commercial 3D printer which would cost about three times as much to buy.
The RepRap community makes all the designs for printer parts and software to run the printer freely available online.
Members of the community also share designs for items they have printed out using RepRap - ranging from shoes to plates.
There are several varieties of RepRap 3D printers. This is the Mendel machine, named after the Austrian friar Gregor Mendel who is credited with kick-starting the field of genetics.
Photo: The RepRap Project
3d printed concrete
In the future, entire buildings could be constructed out of materials built by 3D printers.
Students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab have developed a way of printing out concrete, a building material that has been used since the days of the Roman Empire.
Printing concrete has several advantages over the traditional production methods. 3D printers can create outlandish, organic-looking shapes that would be impossible using moulds. Printers can also finely control the structure of the concrete to create a material that is both lighter and stronger than the traditionally made alternatives.
MIT student Steven Keating said the fine control offered by 3D printing could one day allow man-made construction materials to mimic the strongest materials found in nature. He gave the example of the trunk of a palm tree, which is composed of a dense exterior and a light spongy interior, giving it a higher strength-to-weight ratio than any artificial material.
Photo: Steven Keating, Timothy Cooke and John Fernández
3D printed chocolate
Forget the fridge. People hunting for a snack in the future will fire up the 3D printer.
Printers have already been used to print a range of foods - including scallops, turkey and now chocolate.
Researchers at the University of Exeter used 3D printing technology to create a range of chocolate shapes.
The research team initially found chocolate difficult to work with as it requires precise heating and cooling cycles that had to be integrated with flow rates for the 3D printing process.
Photo: David Martin/EPSRC