I personally think that the RepRap is a tool of personal empowerment. It allows you to take matters into your own hands. Are you not completely satisfied with some object that you use? You can redesign that. Don’t want to throw away an entire vacuum cleaner because the hose-retention-clip broke? Fix or replace it yourself by printing a new part. You will have more control over the things around you. These could be:
- things that are costly compared to a few grams of plastic (part to fix vaccuum cleaner)
- things that matter a lot to you (if you’re a pinball fan, you can repair your pinball machine to satisfaction, and even make your own machine to your liking)
- things that are hard to find in real, physical stores (niches are often under-served for physical products, older products which are not sold anymore)
- Things you want RIGHT NOW (a mosquito is bugging you? Print out a fly-swatter and swat that fly!)
- Things that are easier to specify (to a design tool) than search for in a store (say, a box with specific sizes)
- Things that need customization (things that need to fit to your body or that depend on esthetic preferences)
- Things that do not exist yet, only in your imagination (more often than not, a producer sees no market for the idea that you believe in. If you have your own fabricator, you don’t need a producer and stay in control of development)
This is probably the reason why David Baker, a 13-year-old patent holder and inventor, is building a RepRap. It is an affordable but still very powerful start of being able to seriously design, prototype and engineer other things! Because of its open design, if you run into a constraint that the RepRap has, you will be able to modify any aspect of the machine. People trying different things that push the envelope will generate very important input for the main RepRap project.
Personally, I feel it is very important to give kids with talent the tools to explore what they like to do and learn what they’re capable of.
Apart from making or fixing useful stuff, I know several artists that have been making very interesting things with it. Often they push the envelope by wanting something different with the machine than is conventional. This brings about various interesting concepts that might end up in variations of the RepRap.