RepLab – the Open Source Fab Lab

Many of you may have heard of the MIT Fab Lab – a mini factory where you can make just about anything. If you have $100k to spend, you can get one for your home.

What if we reduce the price of this toolset by a factor of 10? While we are at it, why not add about five times the functionality in that price? That is exactly what we plan on doing: RepLab – the open source Fab Lab. Read the wiki entry on this here, and see the other articles on RepLab here.


(Image from new website by Erik de Bruijn –

Sounds unreal? Yes, prior to the internet age. Now we have open source development – and the price of hardware is dropping drastically. My favorite example is RepRap, the 3D printer – which you can build for $300 in parts – because the plans are available for free. A commercial version would cost you about $20k – or over 60 times more.

So how do we go about achieving this unimaginable feat?

Induction furnace, robotic arm, and heavy duty metal machining.

That’s what you and I will figure out. Let’s back up and start with some facts.

  • Cost reduction is feasible via open source development – RepRap has shown a reduction of over 60 times, The Liberator has shown 10, and there are many others
  • Self-replication is feasible – RepRap, RepTab , and now RepLab
  • There is no limit to what can be open-sourced. Recently, open source desktop fusion was added to the list of open hardware development.

So why bother? Well, this is only for those interested in creating new civilization. The fainthearted do not need to bother – things are just good enough.

However, if you are interested in bringing back production to your country (FABuloUS), creating resilient communities, or simply shifting from a consumer to a producer: the OS Fab Lab is one essential part.

We’ve got some explicit ideas on how this could be done at FeF. But the scope is much greater. Many people want this to happen, so the process needs to be an open one.

We propose in the simplest form – that we all get together to do this. Once done, we can use the self-replicability of the package to replicate the tools for others. First, the plans will be free. Second, we propose an investement structure where those who contribute to the development gain access to the tools created to build additional copies of the tools at ridiculously low cost for themselves. We are offering FeF as one venue where this replication can happen.

So this process is totally up for collaboration. The existing infrastructure is our wiki, and Erik de Bruijn is offering a server to do a dedicated site. You can see the proposed toolset that we would like to see, up for discussion. What would you want to see? What do you have to offer? Let’s talk and make it happen. We need a project management site. We need a development email list. We need publicity. We need marketing materials to spread the message. We need fundraising. We need a process for allocating resources. Who wants to take part? If you take part – you have to be clear about what work you can commit to. We don’t just want to talk about it.


  1. Brill

    We have added you as our friends at RBEC. We are interested in joining you with this project and others. Please get in touch with me either at the email address above or visit

  2. How to write machines « Maxwell’s Demon

    […] making itself. The development of other machines has begun, with the ambitious goal of creating a RepLab a multipurpose factory that can create itself at a cost of less than $10000. Even commercially the […]

  3. Joel

    >We need a process for allocating resources.

    That one will be important! Do you have a rough, working idea of what that might look like?

  4. Marcin

    Edmund Harriss was one of the speakers at FSCONS 2009. Here’s his article on the need for technological literacy:

  5. anonymous freak

    Maybe you could join efforts with, they try to create a more modular knowledge-sharing site, but haven’t really started.

    Just my 2 cents, I enjoy reading about your project.

  6. Marcin is excellent. Looks like a universal constructor for electronics, with high standards for rapid teaching, modularity, and documentation. I’ll touch with them on making modular power units for plasma cutters, induction furnaces, welders, and inverters – which are basic building blocks for the power infrastructure of post-scarcity, resilient communities.

  7. Marcin

    Response from NYC Resistor: at

    We are not currently working on an opensource laser cutter. Some of our members are active with open source 3D printing, namely the RepRap and the Makerbot.

    I do know that rebuilt a broken epilog and then taught it to sing ( They might have a couple of folks interested in opensourcing a laser cutter design.


  8. Marcin

    From Erik de Bruijn:

    I like this initiative, very much! Would really like to help create momentum for this effort. I’m adding Siert Wijnia to CC. We went to several conferences to promote replicating tools of fabrication (was personally mostly focussed around RepRap at that moment). This video illustrates it well and it might be nice to spread it around:

  9. Marcin

    From Edmund,

    (see Edmund’s article continuing this discussion at:

    This sounds awesome, I will think about how I can be useful
    (beyond the education side of getting people started).

    Some initial thoughts:

    1) Software: The drivers for most CNC machines are awful. A
    powerful and intuitive software that can interchange between
    all machines could easily put us ahead. Initially just getting
    something that does not suck would already be great. Of
    course it would be open source so who knows what people
    will make it do?

    2) Costing: This is the big argument so we need to make it
    strong. Good details of how estimates come about (especially
    commercial options for more technical items such as lasers).
    It would be good to get details on the Reprap and cutting table
    costs to show that the cost savings are real for serious machines.
    Other proposals would then be accepted with a lower level of

    3) Development through schools: I am currently looking for
    co-conspiritors for Street maths type projects in schools. The
    right people in the tech/design dept would be great to get on
    board. It could be great PR for the school and fantastic education
    for the students, esp all the important things: Freedom, making
    stuff, being useful to the world.

    I am planning a blog post on fab-literacy when I get out from under
    a pile of marking so will stir in this plan.

  10. Marcin

    From Olle:

    OK, hi all, Marcin say hello to Erik de Bruijn (hello, we met at Reboot 2009! I was on the ReBike project), who has now already introduced Siert (*that’s* the Dutch name that escaped me this weekend). Super, everybody knows each other, small planet, good comms.

    Marketing again: I was thinking of trucker hats this morning. A LifeTrac trucker cap, with clear wording. has some awesome words to clip from. OK, thanks, bye. /Olle

  11. Marcin

    From Erik de Bruijn:

    Hi All,
    > 2. Who and how to contact others to find more collaborators?
    I posted it on the P2P research clusters’ facebook group.
    > 3. How much time could you devote to this?
    Devotion, a lot. Time, not as much as I’d like. 🙂
    > 5. Can you set up a website for this?
    Yes, see below.
    > 6. How can we enlist communicators, PR people?
    > 7. Besides the crowds, who can we tap for funding?
    I will start communicating this in my network. FabLab’s and hackerspaces could be interested, also bigger corporations that are looking to synergize with user innovators and creative communities might want to be involved and provide financial support.
    > 8. Etc, etc.
    Here are some more thoughts:

    I was a bit struck by the equipment that is mentioned. It is currently a list of commercially available products. But I think we should emphasize the important implication of open source for module reuse. A lesson that OSE beautifully teaches us in practice. An example in our OS FabLab context would be, reuse of a certain cartesian bot (mechanical subsystem) for several types of fabbing operations would seems to me a logical step. So, similar to OSE having a single modular engine that can be used both for electrical power generation as well as several mechanical farming-related operations. Also, more ‘design’ cross-overs and forking (speciation) could occur and hybrid machines can be more easily constructed under an open IP regime. Of course, a list of things that are used in contemporary FabLabs is a starting point, but it should not be our limited goal just to produce open counterparts that ‘only’ do what is already possible and attempt to do it cheaper (which is still a challenge and under-appreciates possbile benefits of an open source development process).

    One of the critical success factors of this concept is replicability. Otherwise it will remain just a concept or prototype and will not have a real, lasting impact (innovation = invention + diffusion). Replicability requires knowledge transfer, which in turn often requires codification of this knowledge so that it can be disseminated. Many knowledge transfers occur through self-organizing social interaction, which is critical for development. In principle, the above statements hold equally true for open design (hardware) as open source software and other open collaborative creative processes. Yet, much of this knowledge is sticky, in the sense that its costly to transfer (including but not limited to financial costs). This stickiness (the reciprocal of replicability) is the real problem we need to crack, and open design has an interesting (3rd) dimension that sets it apart from knowledge pertaining non-physical. High barriers to replicating the innovations in a community are increasing their stickiness and severely limiting the scope and scalability of the community.

    Open hardware is not fundamentally unique in the sense that an investment has to be made to replicate the solution that exists in another location. Creating a setup for software development requires investing in computing equipment, investing time in getting to know the development environment, etc. Admittedly, there are differences in the height of the investments for a ‘material infrastructure’ (fabbing equipment) compared to the ‘information infrastructure’ (a slice of a server somewhere), but the exact aim is to lower these costs and increase collaborative innovation in these projects by its users. Research that I’m currently doing leads me to believe that collaborative (user dominated) innovation coupled with opportunities for monetizing sub-projects (entrepreneurial activity, producer innovation) can create a sustainable climate for these projects to flourish. We should keep on lowering the barriers to distributed production of physical things. Apart from trying to reduce the costs, a good strategy is to increase incentives to participate. Users of a fabbing machine are a good example in that their goals (having a great fabber) are well aligned with the project goals. He/she is incented to disseminate his/her improvements (Raymond 1999, Lakhani and von Hippel, 2009). Emerging commercial entities (possibly springing from the user community) will add value by increasing user-friendliness, increasing (efficient) manufacturability of the more mature standardized designs, etc. They will be biassed towards targeting homogenous market segments and provide just the machines that are commonly needed (the mean in a “gaussian” market) instead of niche systems tailored towards (developing) user needs (the tail of a Zipf/Pareto or long tail market). The niche systems contain the seeds that develop into new markets that will later be valued candidates for mass-diffusion.

    As I argued that replication is critical, I propose that we call this effort “RepLab”. This is also to the emphasize the symbiotic relationship with the FabLab ‘movement’ that already has significant momentum and fabber projects including the RepRap, but also derivative and alternative projects (Makerbot, Fab@Home, CandyFab, P3P, Contraptor). I don’t see self-replication of parts as a condition on the short term, but either efficient fabrication through mass production (standardized common parts, e.g. nuts & bolts) or custom fabrication (preferably with tools available in a RepLab).

    On a more practical note: I can, through my company , set up and sponsor a Linux server (any flavour) if someone would offer to manage its web-applications and other infrastructure that would be useful for this project, that would be really great!

  12. Marcin

    From James of :

    Interesting back-n-forth, only have a few minutes – but I’m the IT guy for a screenprinting wholesaler… we print about 1.5-2 million shirts a year – also hats, aprons blah, blah, blah…
    So if you are serious I’ll get a quote for you… (should be near cost)

  13. […] FSCONS conference was awesome, discussion on RepLab is evolving, and I have a feeling we haven’t seen anything yet. At the same time – the […]

  14. Marcin

    From Christian Siefkes:

    that’s a great initiative (in fact I was always annoying at the ignorance of
    the “official” Fab Lab to go for open hardware for their own infrastructure)
    and I would like to get involved.

    My main contribution for the time being is that I’m working with Smári
    McCarthy (and others) on the Tangible Bit project
    <>, where
    we’re trying to a define machine-readable formats for describing open source
    hardware, resolving dependencies (which hardware is needed to build this),
    mapping locations (where can I find the tools and resources I need to build
    this?) and so on.

  15. Freedom of Press | Open Source Ecology

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  16. Erik de Bruijn

    Squatted the microblogging namespace as well:
    How should we make this a collaborative account? I can share the password with some, but perhaps TarPipe is more powerful (can connect with many online systems, or decode REST or HTTP requests)

  17. Vitaly Mankevich

    Hi Marcin,

    Perhaps you’ll find the Contraptor set ( useful for fabricating some of the things for RepLab/OS FabLab. We’re open source, DIY, and growing.


  18. Erik de Bruijn

    Okay, I did some Inkscaping. Actually I did most of it a while ago for a planned FabLab in my city.

    I now prefer to donate it to instead.

    The logo is about spreading a fresh, illuminating breeze in all directions. Increasing the sphere of impact in all three dimensions (in the real physical world). Please see:
    Anyone who wants to extend the design (currently only a logo):
    Haven’t added wiki software or anything because we should decide together what would be the best platform.

  19. Erik de Bruijn

    Marcin asked:
    > Any ideas on how to link the two efforts? Maybe combine them into one, since RepLab is about one half of OSE?

    I’m not entirely sure how to differentiate the two (OSE and RL), but I know that it’s important to do so (to some extent). The two are not that different, but we could emphasize different aspects nevertheless. Both will attract a slightly different element and you don’t need to change OSE while we will still have positive network effects and innovation spill-overs between the two. Obviously I don’t want to lose any of the OSE goals (sustainability at all levels) but the prioritization could be different.

    If it were up to me I would focus on compatibility with existing FabLab practices and technology. They are an important stakeholder and an emerging phenomenon. This might also be a source of revenue and innovation input, since some FabLab’s are already working on RepRaps and other machines and they may have money to speed it up since they will be getting nice equipment and ‘infrastructural services’ at a lower cost. In terms of infrastructural services I’m thinking of hosting their site (or just a DNS forward) under This could be for my area (Tilburg, Netherlands). It might also be the place that hosts git and svn trees, or we might use for that but, more importantly, it could still remain the central place to start (wiki’s and blogs for subprojects) and to integrate and align these projects. It’s important to not try to make a panacea (too much work anyway) but integrate into existing infrastructure, especially if it already has built a community. So I wouldn’t feel much for creating yet *another* RepRap forum, wiki, blog, etc. But integrating the two, creating combined RSS feeds and aggregating some parts in the twitter account might be nice. Perhaps RepLab could help fund projects based on community pledges and collective decision making. Of course you already have ChipIn and Kickstarter, which might be good candidates as well.

    Marcin wrote:
    > There is also Ben Lipkowitz and Bryan Bishop, with the SKDB project, and we should put our heads together with Smari on Tangible Bit. Sam Putnam is doing hard core work, he’s already talking of open source extrusion and hot metal processes – like induction furnace, hot rolling, wire drawing on the village scale. I love it. See his comment on blog post – I’m putting it up right now.

    Yes, I followed Sam Putman’s plegde. Wanted to chip in but didn’t have an amazon account nor private credit card. Very interesting and complementary! I actually produced one of the first MakerBeams on my RepRap. They’re really nice and strong in ABS.

    Really love the recent developments and all the wonderful people putting so much effort into this ecology. Also the parametric modelers that pop up here and there (openscad, freecad, etc.)

  20. Reto

    I’m very interested in the concept of fab labs and especially OS woodworking machines like milling machines.

  21. Marcin

    From Sam Putnam –

    I really enjoy what you’re doing with pattern languages! I’m a great
    devotee of the work of Christopher Alexander.

    This is something I’d like to work on in some detail. As an example,
    plastic extrusion and aluminum extrusion are the same problem, but
    require different embodiments because of the higher temperature and
    pressure for aluminum extrusion. A glass lathe is like a metal lathe
    with additional burner elements. Everything in fabrication is like

    One thing that seems crucial is repeating certain kinds of objects at
    several scales. A fine example would be burners, actually, which could
    come in a few standard scales. Motors and engines are another prime
    example, as indeed are machine tools, for which optimization by scale
    leads to significant productivity gains in many cases. For instance,
    one would want a small CNC lathe for cutting the tools for use on
    larger mills; it isn’t cost or time effective to cut the tooling for a
    large machine on itself, though it is of course possible.

    Extrusion of metal is crucial stuff, and I’d like to see it have a
    higher priority under the general ‘metal casting’ rubric. Metal
    casting is excellent for some kinds of solid shapes, but between round
    stock, square stock, tubing, angle bracketing and T-slot, it’s hard to
    imagine a more cost-effective way to wean off global sourcing, even
    for simple things like nuts and bolts. Also, the equipment involved in
    metal extrusion is has much in common to that needed for hot-rolling,
    allowing overlap in production and possibly facilities also. Also
    related is wire-drawing, which I don’t have to tell you is
    non-negotiable for real self reliance.

    I think extrusions up to about thigh diameter should be replicable at
    a village scale, and would leverage into massive gains in
    self-reliance and reusability of components. Extrusions do modular
    really, really well, and modular is efficient; a greenhouse, say, made
    from aluminum slotted extrusion would weigh less to setup, be easier
    to move and take down, and last longer through these operations than
    one which is wood framed.

    I’m still very much making my way through your project information, so
    these are just some preliminary thoughts. I like the idea of an icon
    language for physical and process elements; that has a lot of
    potential for elaboration.


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  23. Marcin


    I’d like to propose that we get our heads together on concrete products that we can sell to generate further bootstrap funding for RepLab.

    There is a number of candidates, from CubeSpawn, MakerBeam, OS tractor and CEB press, RepTab, RepRap – plus others that lend themselves to production, where we can share the design and open business models along the lines of free hardware. Then there is Kickstarter, ChipIn, others – for bootstrapping funding. Funding can be done by promise to produce – if the product is close enough to release.

    So I’d like to start a discussion on this, under the basic agreement that we’re working in the true spirit of free hardware, like our Freedom of Press.

    I would like to hear some feedback for what we can do today to help bootstrap all of our projects. We can bring our CEB press to the table – it’s a real product that can make real money now. We’re working on fabrication optimization now. We’re looking for poeple to help in the optimization, and we’re looking for other important products.

    One promising candidate I can see is open source aluminum extrusion for MakerBeam – which applies directly to us, for example, if we make simple grid beam for tractors. Etc. This could be a project that can gain much up-front funding, say by access to low cost, open source aluminum extrusion. Devil’s in the details.



  24. Marcin

    From Sam Putnam:

    This is a huge discussion! I guess I’ll start with MakerBeam and work
    my way out from there.

    I am intensely interested in an open-source aluminum extrusion press.
    However, Mini-T profiles would be a bit of a master’s thesis project
    to produce on such a device. For it to work as intended, it has to be
    produced to an extremely fine tolerance, using a precisely crafted and
    tempered aluminum alloy (AA6303-T6 is what we’re using right now,
    there are other options that would work as well).

    There are hundreds of extruders in the US alone; it just doesn’t make
    sense to develop that platform for this purpose. An extruder capable
    of turning scrap aluminum into good round stock and tubing is a
    project that is likely to be feasible, and could be built from the
    modular components you’re already working with. It’s basically a
    hydraulic ram that gets fairly hot, like 600-700 C.

    Over time, this device could be refined, and practice gained, to make
    larger T-slots with acceptable qualities for modular building.
    Combined with an advanced small-scale metallurgy to extract the needed
    aluminum, iterating something like this would produce a truly
    disruptive technology. The needed elements for aircraft-grade aluminum
    alloys are aluminium, silicon, and some options like zinc, copper, and
    manganese, with Al as the great bulk of the alloy (93% at least).

    To address RepLab. In order to make an economic difference, we need to
    be designing, not tools, but toolchains. At present, I think the
    highest-value toolchain we could produce and open source is one for
    manufacturing PCBs with an absolute minimum of human input.

    This would consist of an integrated toolchain that feeds copper-clad
    blanks into either a print-and-etch machine (faster) or a precision
    mill, followed by a conveyor into a pick-and-place, followed by a
    moving soldering oven. At this early stage it’s probably acceptable to
    have manual inspection and reflow.

    For bonus points, we should be able to run the system backwards to
    dismount boards that are obsolete, partially broken or no longer

    I propose this because it is the single largest point of intersection
    between the city and the farm. I deeply admire what you’re doing with
    Factor e, and will visit when I can; but I am in love with California
    and have lived in cities throughout my adulthood. I intend to stay

    A PCB production toolchain would be lightweight, comparatively
    inexpensive, and would leverage the largest repository of open source
    design, which is Arduino related circuitry.

    I would consider the system complete when the following scenario
    played out. A new variation of a circuit of interest is committed to a
    git repository or equivalent, my toolchain picks it up, prints the
    board, mounts the components, solders them, and sends a Tweet that
    there’s a new board if I’d like to head down to the lab to test it.
    This would, of course, be the first I heard of it, unless I was around
    when the toolchain turned itself on.

    This would make real a lot of the promise inherent in open circuit
    design. Right now, it’s a non-trivial matter to clone someone else’s
    technology; this enables certain kinds of niche players to make some
    extra revenue, but it’s holding back the pace of innovation and the
    return of value to areas less directly related to electronics
    manufacture, such as robotics.

    I haven’t even touched on crowdfunding! It’s another email, at this point.

    -Sam Putman

  25. Marcin

    From Marc:

    Sounds absolutely brilliant 🙂

    I’m an IT engineer and a biotech student from Copenhagen, Denmark, and
    I’m in the process of starting the first Danish hackspace/fablab:

    I can offer programming / linux administration skills + site hosting
    (I’m currently getting up to speed on the DIYbio movement but it will
    be a few months before I can offer my expertise in this area).

    You seem to be talking about getting together in an actual physical
    location and creating an open source / maker village? Would it be a
    permanent village? If so, it is an excellent idea, and one we have
    discussed at Labitat meetings before (though never with a serious plan
    to actually do it).

    I am finishing my biotech degree this summer and would love to move
    directly on to working on this stuff full time. Of course, I realize
    there is much to be done before we get to a point where that is
    possible, and much of my energy right now is directed towards getting
    the operation here in Copenhagen bootstrapped, but I want you to know
    that I’ll forward concrete requests for assistance to the Labitat
    members and push your concept at meetings.

    Your fellow hacker,

    Marc Juul

  26. Marcin

    Critical discussion on the type of replication necessary for economic significance and disruptive economics:

    -Sam Putman.

    On Replication

    There is a growing interest in self-replicating machines. Beginning
    with the RepRap project, and now continuing into RepLab, the open
    source FabLab, there is a serious effort to build machines which can
    build themselves.

    It is a laudable goal. A machine which can make itself can also make
    an unimaginable variety of other machines, each unique if desired, and
    promises an era of material abundance and freedom from scarcity.
    Pursuing that goal, however, has shown the goal itself to be somewhat
    unclear. This is an attempt to remedy this situation.

    What is replication? The production of a replica, but what is a
    replica? The original meaning was that of a duplicate of a work of
    art, properly one produced by the original artist.

    I propose we define replication precisely, as the transcription of a
    template into a physical form. This definition is perhaps more general
    than we are used to, but I believe it accurately captures the use of
    the word.

    Let’s take the test case: an artist producing a replica of her own
    painting. The original painting may have taken many months, while the
    replica may take only a day or two at most. The artist is using tools,
    a brush and palette, and materials, canvas and paint, to make a copy
    of a template, the original work.

    How about DNA self-replication? We have a toolchain of proteins, from
    DNA Transcriptase on, which transcribe a template, the DNA, into a
    copy of itself, using materials (ATP, other nucleic acids, caffeine if
    there’s some in the organism in question) both extrinsic to the cell
    and fabricated within it.

    Note that in the first case the template resembles the result, while
    in second case, if we consider the result a new cell rather than new
    DNA, the result doesn’t resemble the template at all. This is
    immaterial to the act of replication; a high-resolution inkjet printer
    and a scanner could replicate the artist’s original work, faster and
    more accurately than she could, and in this case the template would be
    stored as bits within a computer.

    The rest of this discussion will focus on replication in the context
    of human-tool interaction.

    This means replication of an object, from a template, through the
    combined efforts of at least one human with at least one tool. We call
    this a ‘tool’ rather than a ‘machine’ for greater generality.

    The earliest form of replication was a human using a tool to make a
    copy of an object. Our paradigm case for this is a scribe copying a
    scroll. A human can’t do this without the materials (paper, ink) and
    tools (quill, sharpener) required for the act. With those tools, a
    human can copy a scroll in a certain amount of time.

    A few observations here: the tool enables, the human works. A faster
    tool, let us say a pen rather than a chisel on stone, allows for
    faster work, but more copies will always take more human time. We will
    call this Type 1 replication. It is characterized by modest gains in
    efficiency for mass production and poor scaling characteristics.

    A second form of replication came about when humans began using tools
    to automate aspects of production. By investing time in setup, many
    copies can be replicated much faster. The work is still done by
    humans, with tools; but by doing the work intelligently, many copies
    can be made with comparatively low effort. We call this Type 2

    The paradigm case for Type 2 is the printing press. By investing
    considerable effort in building a press, casting type, and laying out
    a document, one is rewarded by the ability to print as many copies as
    one wants, with speed and reliability which increase over time. Type 2
    replication has good scaling characteristics and rewards mass
    production. It is characteristic of the Industrial Age.

    Type 2 production next evolved in two directions the first of which
    we’ll call Type 2a: significant setup time followed by fully automated
    production. Newspaper presses work in this fashion, although the most
    recent ones are Type 3. Type 2a has significantly better scaling
    characteristics than Type 2, and mostly displaces it when developed.

    Type 2b replication is where there is significant tool investment, but
    negligible setup time and non-automatic production. The matching
    paradigm for this is a Xerox machine, though like newspaper presses
    these have become increasingly Type 3 over time. An early Xerox would
    make a copy of anything that fit on the glass, or even a hundred
    copies, but a human had to stand around feeding it sheets and doing
    things like collation by hand. This has poor scaling qualities, being
    labor intensive, but it favors customization over mass production.

    Type 3 replication has negligible setup times and fully automatic
    production. Our paradigm case here is a laser printer. Even a desktop
    laser printer can print replicas of stored data, each different, for
    many hours without needing attention. The factory scale printers can
    make entire books without human intervention. Type 3 replication is
    characteristic of the Information Age, or Industrial Revolution 2.0.

    Type 3 has good scaling characteristics and rewards customization over
    mass production. One can make an arbitrarily large number of copies
    off any given template, but there’s little to no advantage over using
    many different templates.

    Many FabLab technologies, such as laser cutters, hobby-scale 3d
    printers, and CNC mills, are Type 2b. What’s interesting about 2b
    replication is that it’s often a small step away from being Type 3,
    needing only, for example, a small conveyor belt. I hope that by
    drawing attention to the radical difference in scaling quality between
    Type 2b replication and Type 3 replication, I can encourage
    open-source hardware developers to strive for Type 3 tools whenever

    A Type 2b tool is a creative enabler, while a Type 3 tool is both a
    creative enabler and an economically disruptive force, because it can
    compete effectively with 2a mass-production technologies. It also
    frees human labor for other pursuits, which is an important goal for

    So this is replication; what of self-replication? This is the second
    concept I hope to make clear with this essay. Self-replication is not
    different from replication, except that, in the context of human-tool
    interaction, that which is being replicated is a part of the tool
    itself. I refer to this as recursion, because that’s what it is.

    Note that there are several Type 1 replicators with a high degree of
    possible recursion. The lathe is a classic example: one can hand-turn
    many of the components for a lathe on itself, and even bootstrap a
    lathe by building the spindle and using it to make other components. A
    kiln is another example, since a kiln can be used to fire refractory
    bricks to make another kiln. In fact I might argue that a kiln
    exhibits the highest recursion of any Type 1 replicator, in that a
    kiln can be nothing but stacked bricks and a fire, and the bricks can
    all come from a kiln.

    Note, however, that this still has poor scaling qualities, though it
    favors custom production. The Dave Gingery approach of contributing
    massive human inputs to a bootstrapped machine shop is noble, but it
    will never be an economic force. It is simply too easy to identify the
    main shapes needed, turn them over to Type 2 or 2a production, and
    swamp the market.

    The RepRap project faces exactly this dilemma. RepRap knocked the
    bottom out of 3-d printing, but it did this mostly by making the
    MakerBot possible. The RepRap is a 2b replicator, which requires human
    tending during the entirety of the recursion process. This makes it
    easier and cheaper to simply make a chassis on a faster 2b tool,
    namely an Epilog laser cutter that NYC Resistor happens to already
    own, and sell that. If the RepRap were a Type 3, with an automatic
    conveyor, it might be a different story, since a RepRap could then
    print its chassis parts at a rate of a few complete sets a week with
    minimal human inputs. For that matter, a MakerBot with a conveyor belt
    would be a Type 3 replicator, albiet one exhibiting less recursion
    than a Darwin or a Mendel.

    Let me conclude by suggesting that the RepLab project needs to place
    priority on Type 3 replication, not on a maximum level of recursion
    for the whole system. Recursion, I think I’ve shown, is no great trick
    if it takes a human hand-holding the machine through the whole
    process, since this is how machine tools have always been built, on
    other machine tools.

    The power of Industrial Revolution 2.0 lies in developing machines
    which exhibit Type 3 replication. If the outputs of those machines are
    sufficiently general than the toolset as a suite can exhibit
    economically significant recursion. An example would be an open-source
    toolchain for automated printing and assembly of PCB boards. Such a
    suite would be able to print its own control hardware in addition to
    any other circuit that can be designed and mounted with a
    pick-and-place, which is most of them.

    The RepLab project should focus on tools exhibiting Type 3 replication
    for a variety of economically significant goods. Recursion is an
    emergent result which can lend exponential momentum to the deployment
    of RepLab technology. By approaching the project goals in this order,
    we have a rational approach to an open source hardware platform for
    Industrial Revolution 2.0.

  27. Marcin


    I would like to call out further for participation in
    The focus is economic significance, ie, applicability of open source tools
    to real production functions of society. Sam discussed this point in his
    post, On Replication<…>

    I am posting this same message to annou… and
    disc… . If someone knows more effective means of
    contacting hacklabs, pass this on. We also need to pass this on to the
    FabLab people.
    As such, the discussion on RepLab needs to start with components. We propose
    these here, and then ask collaborators explicitly what they can contribute
    to the RepLab tool inventory development process. We are looking primarily
    for people who have can research, design, and build equipment. The goal is
    producing tools that can lead to disruptive change by combination of open
    source business model and Type 3 replication (see above article). We should
    be clear that the development has openness as a priority – including the
    enterprise model for building respective machines. The enterprise model must
    include economic analysis and ergonomic analysis for the RepLab tool, to
    promote economically significant production of that tool or of its product.
    This is in the name of distributive economics – and to spawn a large number
    of production facilities worlwide that rely on open source tooling. This is
    a means to address bootstrap funding towards post-scarcity economics for
    many of the groups involved – by earnings from viable, open business models.

    It should be said that the common ground between RepLab development and
    toolchain application towards economically significant production (such as
    automated circuit fabrication proposed by Sam) is the development of the
    toolchain components. This means that if we want to develop toolchains – we
    need tool chain components – and that’s where the core mission of RepLab
    lies. We are hoping that a large pool of developers from many
    hackerspace-related initiatives come together on developing the various Open
    Source Fab Lab tools, since all of us are interested in at least some tools
    of production.

    Sam proposes automated circuit fab as one viable enterprise. Erik brings
    RepRap developments to the table, and I hope that this becomes a viable open
    business model, possibly co-developed with Makerbot. FeF brings
    RepTab<>to the table –
    we have an untested prototype so far, and we welcome on-site

    The list of tools needed is below, with only the key items listed. Please
    get back to us specifically on what you can contribute. In particular:

    (1), tell us the tool of interest to you;
    (2), what specific technical developments you are willling to contribute to
    the project – such as design, calculations, research, fabrication, testing,
    documentation, web development, marketing, resource development, parts
    sourcing assistance, etc.
    (3), resources and infrastructure that you have available, and what gruops
    you are involved with or that you can leverage for assistance
    (4), suggestions on strategies and enterprise models that can be utilized in
    (5), suggestions on tools missing, and how you’re willing to contribute to
    devloping them
    (6), how much energy you can commit – do you ‘have a job’ or can you commit
    significant time?

    TOOL LIST – from FabLab (see detailedhis for a
    1. Laser cutter – large DIY community exists for C02 lasers
    2. ShopBot – RepTab is the Factor e Farm version
    3. Precise router for milling circuits
    4. Plasma cutter – power circuit is main point to opensource
    5. Welder – power circuit is main point to opensource
    6. Oscilloscope – can a computer oscilloscope cover most needs?

    Beyond FabLab:
    1. RepRap – fabrication streamlining and open business model needed
    2. Mill
    3. Drill
    4. Lathe
    5. Induction furnace – power electronics are main point to opensource
    6. Ciruit fab – automated process including pick-and-place
    7. Aluminum extrusion
    8. Metal casting – of ingot from induction furnace, and other molds
    9. Hot rolling
    10. Cold rolling
    11. Forging
    12. Metal shear and hole punch for up to 1″ steel
    13. Wire drawing

    These tools cover electronics, precision fabrication, heavy metal work, and
    ability to make other tools for producing any technology known in advanced
    civilization. Tools created from the above can even yield clean room
    technology. The above is quiate a limited set, but is sufficient to generate
    other tools. The latter parts focus on serious industrial process, with a
    bias towards building replicable, post-scarcity resilient communities with
    capacity to bootstrap largerly from scrap steel.

    Comments and refinements of problem statement are welcome.



  28. Spike Spiegel is awaiting peoples’ input. at this time, input into information architecture is the first step

    people who want to help with that now, can.

    everything else will naturally come after that.

    at some point i intend to implement a change-weblog so that one could tell at a glance when’s the last time any modifications were made to the site’s information architecture

  29. Spike Spiegel

    oh yeah, it’s built in drupal 6

    you can get a lot of information (read: podcasts) on this awesome open source project at

  30. apollo

    This is great news. We will be following closely your news. I am sure some of the chapters in Zeitgeist Movement will have interest in helping adapting a project like this.

  31. Humanity+ Summit | Open Source Ecology

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  32. Land | Open Source Ecology

    […] have covered basic needs. To these, add the open source fab lab, RepLab. Then, we have unleashed local productivity, replacing 90% of all industry via local […]

  33. Conor

    Is there a website where all the designs are posted in one place?

    I can’t find a lot of them anywhere on your wiki and how are people supposed to collaborate on the designs if they can’t find them?

    1. Marcin

      The OSE design repository is here:
      The torch table information is at

  34. […] in if you want to see this happen. If successful, this project will be a direct contribution to RepLab and the Global Village Construction Set. Categories: Open Source Ecology No Comments « […]

  35. […] source, laser cutter for under $5k. If successful, this project will be a direct contribution to RepLab and the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS). We will be able to build on this design to both […]

  36. […] duty, open source drill press. We are glad to report encouraging results, and a good addition to RepLab, the open source Fab Lab. It contains a hydraulic motor for the drilling and a hydraulic cylinder […]

  37. […] our own eenrgy – as the extreme example of what can be done on the scale of a 40 acre farm. RepLab is our main strategy to achieve these goals. Subscribe to support our work. Categories: […]

  38. […] infrastructure for flexible fabrication along the lines of the Open Source Fab Lab, RepLab, is evolving nicely. We reported recently on Prototype I the heavy duty, open source, drill press, […]

  39. […] is approaching, so it’s high time to tidy up the GVCS. It’s only two million dollars. RepLab is the open source Fab Lab.This winter, if not sooner, will bring some major proposal writing. […]

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  43. Esther de Bruijn

    I just created another part for an affordable pick-and-place machine to automatically assemble smaller series of custom electronics. It’s licenced creative commons and is a fully modular and customizable parametric design:
    Also, it can almost entirely be made on an open source 3D printer.

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