Do self replicating systems arise from design or solely by materialistic processes? A self replicating system has just been designed by Adrian Bowyer and demonstrated a the University Of Bath.
Studying RepRap is likely to give further insights into the requirements for self replicating systems. Then those can be compared with self replicating biotic systems and evaluated as to whether those could have arisen by materialistic processes, or if that most probably would indicate intelligent causation.
The RepRap site states:
A universal constructor is a machine that can replicate itself and – in addition – make other industrial products. Such a machine would have a number of interesting characteristics, such as being subject to Darwinian evolution, increasing in number exponentially, and being extremely low-cost.
The RepRap software comes in two chunks: the code that runs in the microcontrollers in the RepRap machine itself, and the code that runs on the host (usually a PC running Linux or Windows, or a Mac). This page links to the documentation for these:
* The RepRap software on the host. This is written in Java. The Javadocs are here.
* The RepRap microcontroller firmware. This is written in C.
Now how might it be subject to “Darwinian evolution”? And what are prospects for such “evolution”? Some clues: How good are its design tolerances, error correction and self repair mechanisms?
R&D Magazine, June 4, 2008
A Univ. of Bath academic who oversees a global effort to develop an open-source machine that ‘prints’ three-dimensional objects, is celebrating after the prototype machine succeeded in making a set of its own printed parts. The machine, named RepRap, will be exhibited publicly at the Cheltenham Science Festival (4-8 June 2008).
RepRap is short for replicating rapid-prototyper; it employs a technique called “additive fabrication”. The machine works a bit like a printer, but, rather than squirting ink onto paper, it puts down thin layers of molten plastic which solidify. These layers are built up to make useful 3-D objects.
RepRap has, so far, been capable of making everyday plastic goods such as door handles, sandals and coat hooks. Now, the machine has also succeeded in copying all its own 3-D-printed parts.
These parts have been printed and assembled by RepRap team member, Vik Olliver, in Auckland, New Zealand, into a new RepRap machine that can replicate the same set of parts for yet another RepRap machine and so on ad infinitum. While 3-D printers have been available commercially for about 25 years, RepRap is the first that can essentially print itself.
The RepRap research and development project was conceived, and is directed, by Adrian Bowyer, a senior lecturer in engineering in the Faculty of Engineering & Design at the Univ. of Bath, UK.
Bowyer says that: “These days, most people in the developed world run a professional-quality print works, photographic lab and CD-pressing plant in their own house, all courtesy of their home PC. Why shouldn’t they also run their own desktop factory capable of making many of the things they presently buy in shops, too?
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