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ASK OCE — September 20, 2006 — Vol. 1, Issue 14

Robots that can alter their electronic brains and body structures. Machines that can autonomously reproduce themselves exponentially. It’s not the plot of a Hollywood sci-fi movie. Efforts are well underway to make the next generation of rapid prototyping systems a reality.

A research group at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts is at working to devise robots that will build themselves by a rapid production method similar to 3-D printing or rapid prototyping, according to Mechanical Engineering Magazine. This manufacturing method typically functions by depositing and curing successive layers of material to create the finished product.

Another research team, led by Adrian Bowyer, senior lecturer of mechanical engineering at the University of Bath in England, has already demonstrated the efficacy of a device called RepRap, which the team believes will one day use 3-D printing to replicate itself and manufacture a variety of consumer products.

Eventually, researchers believe, the self-duplicating machines won’t require an assembly line for their manufacturing and may be able to replicate themselves exponentially. This would mean lower production costs for manufacturers as well as greater availability and lower per-unit prices for consumers.

Though some experts think the technology may take 20 to 50 years to perfect, the current research could be an important step in the evolution of rapid prototyping.


In This Issue

Message from the Chief Engineer

Leadership Corner: Rickover on Doing a Job

This Week in NASA History: JFK Challenges U.S. to Reach Moon by Decade’s End

First-Person Perspective: NASA History

Reaching for the APEX at Ames

Government Brief: FAA Publishes New Commercial Space Safety Standards

Copy That: Progress in Rapid Prototyping

A View from Outside: Russia and China to Collaborate on Mars Mission

Archimedes Archive: The Turtle

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