RepLab Design

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We theorize that a robust, flexible fabrication, open source, multipurpose production technology Fab Lab can be produced and marketed at a price ticket of 5-10k.

This assumes OSE Spec, neocommercializable, crowdfunded, voluneer-developed, at-cost production, commons facility- based product.


Information is the main ingredient in modern devices; materials are a relatively small part of the puzzle. By making information free, we make the devices nearly free. The RepLab tools take information downloaded for free from the Internet and apply it to some cheap raw materials to produce useful devices. People using RepLab would be able to use, produce and share open-source hardware using repositories of design-information like SKDB.
The current generation of digital fabrication workshops - Fab Labs - cost about $60k, are not self-replicating and are not open-source. RepLab is the next generation of the Fab Lab tools - a better, cheaper, self-replicating, open-source version of the Fab Lab, with added capabilities like metal melting from scrap, heavy duty fabrication, and robotic automation. Is this evolution possible?
  • We know that cost reduction is feasible via open-source development. RepRap is 60 times cheaper than commercial equivalents; The Liberator 10 times cheaper. There are many other examples. It shouldn't be a problem to get to the prices outlined below.
  • We know that self-replication is feasible – RepRap, RepTab, and now RepLab
  • There is no limit to what can be open-sourced. If desktop fusion and space exploration can be open-sourced, then precision-machining can be too.

A RepLab in a third world village could rapidly alleviate poverty by enabling people to solve their own problems, using their own skills and creating local economic activity. Humanity faces significant shortages of medical equipment, agricultural equipment, housing and things like that. A network of RepLabs, growing in numbers exponentially, could greatly alleviate this poverty.

Fifteen tools would do the trick. Just these 15 tools allows you to build all electromechanical devices known to man. Combined with Arduino, digital fabrication can be automated, removing the need for human labour. RepLab will be complete when we have open-source designs for all 15 of these tools meeting the OSE Specifications: modularity, scalability, flexibility, and replicability. A few tools are complete, a few are still just concepts, most are somewhere in between. See below for details of how the project is progressing.

Interested? Then join the hundreds of people who have helped us already, by donating, by making your own prototypes, by posting useful information or design advice on the wiki or in any way you can.

There is a lot of work still to do, but we're making powerful progress and with your help we can have the first RepLab fully functional by the end of 2013. Then it will churn out solutions to human needs like communications, medicine, agriculture and housing. It will turn itself into 2 RepLabs, then 4, then 8, then 16, 32, 64... Soon there'll be so many that anyone facing a problem that can be helped by technology will have the means to solve it locally. That's our dream anyway - and we're looking for people like you to dream it with us.

See Also