The RepRap project is a thriving community that develops an open source 3D printer that fabricates not only arbitrary objects, but also the parts to make more 3D printers. Besides being interesting in …
The RepRap project is a thriving community that develops an open source 3D printer that fabricates not only arbitrary objects, but also the parts to make more 3D printers. Besides being interesting in itself, the project provides valuable indications of the impact of affordable digital production tools. I will show how a distributed community is enabled to collaboratively develop not only the software but also physical innovations and content, independent of manufacturers. I will also show how a commons of open source 3D content can emerge and how this further lowers the barriers for individuals to innovate and express themselves. It is exciting to see more and more individuals empowered to participate in this expanded scope of open source. Possibly, projects like the RepRap will revolutionize "making" not entirely unlike the PC and Linux have done for computing.
In addition to proliferation of digital fabrication tools such as RepRaps, there are important trends that hint at the significance of this emerging trend. Development of open source development toolchains, easy-to-use and/or free CAD software and cheap MaaS (Manufacturing as a Service) are unleashing the creative potential of eventually every person on this planet. I argue for more broad recognition of the positive welfare implication of this open and distributed mode of production. I will speculate that further emergence of the phenomenon may have far reaching implications for the meaning of property when even physical matter can be copied or shared as easily as software.