A revolutionary machine that can copy itself and manufacture everyday objects quickly and cheaply could transform industry in the developing world, according to its creator.

The “self-replicating rapid prototyper,” or “RepRap” is the brainchild of Dr. Adrian Bowyer, a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at the University of Bath in the UK.

It is based on rapid prototyping technology commonly used to manufacturer plastic components in industry from computer-generated blueprints — effectively a form of 3D printer.

But Bowyer told CNN the RepRap’s ability to copy itself could put rapid prototyping technology within reach of the world’s poorest communities by alleviating the need for the sort of large-scale industrial infrastructure common across the developed world.

“People can start manufacturing goods at a low price,” said Bowyer. “All one needs is a computer and a machine that can copy itself. It can spread without enormous expenditure of capital and where labor costs are low.

“It is the first technology that we can have that can simultaneously make people more wealthy while reducing the need for industrial production.”

Prototyping machines currently cost around $45,000 but Bowyer believes that price could drop to a few hundred dollars as the number of self-replicating models increases exponentially.

By Simon Hooper

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