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As the 3D printing hype bubble deflates, it has taken its toll on companies large and small alike. While 3D Systems and Stratasys may be experiencing the effects in large, legal ways, the impact on a smaller firm like RepRap Professional Ltd. may be more ironic, given the role that its founder has had in launching the latest wave of 3D printing. Today, as RepRapPro announces the closure of its shop, it’s important to remember that Adrian Bowyer, the founder of both RepRapPro and the global RepRap movement, is majorly responsible for the low-cost 3D printing revolution occurring worldwide.

adrian bowyer reprap 3D printer

A block of text at the top of the RepRapPro website reads, “The company will cease trading on Friday 15 January 2016. We will service all support and warranty requests up to that date, and fulfill all our outstanding orders.” The reason for this decision, the text states, is that the market for low-cost 3D printers has become too crowded and competitive for their small company to survive. Unlike other firms that may have gone under before fulfilling their obligations, RepRapPro states that “because we are not bankrupt and we do not have any debts to pay, we have chosen to stop now while we are ahead and to concentrate on other activities.”

This does not mean that 3D printers created by RepRapPro will no longer continue to replicate. RepRapPro China Ltd. will continue its operations and, because all of the designs from RepRapPro are open source and will continue to exist on the company’s website and GitHub page, anyone can begin building RepRapPro-style 3D printers.

reprap ormerod 3D printer from reprappro

The text concludes, “We would like to thank everyone who has supported us in the past, either as customers or as contributors who have improved our open-source products, or both. The fact that, unusually for a former company, we will be able to leave megabytes of useful information available to everyone in perpetuity is due in part to the support from those people.”

It’s been ten years since the original RepRap project was founded, with Mr. Bowyer envisioning open source replicating rapid prototypers as capable of copying themselves and, with the help of their symbiotic human engineers, evolving. Like reproducing organisms, they were pictured as, one day, replicating all around the world. Eventually, we might even have what Bowyer described as Darwinian Marxism and “wealth without money”. Bowyer writes, “The self-copying rapid-prototyping machine will allow people to manufacture for themselves many of the things they want, including the machine that does the manufacturing. It is the first technology that we can have that will simultaneously make people more wealthy whilst reducing the need for industrial production.”

We’re not quite there yet, but, in the mean time, Bowyer’s movement has transformed to create companies like MakerBot, Ultimaker, and Aleph Objects. While not all of those companies are still producing open source RepRaps, these companies and others have brought attention to 3D printing, reduced the price of desktop 3D printers well below $500, and have fueled an industry that Wohlers Associates expects to be worth $7 billion this year. It’s ironic that the boom that Bowyer brought has resulted in the overwhelming competition that also brought his company down. If it’s any consolation, he will go down in history as one of the most important people in 3D printing and the future of manufacturing as whole.

Michael Molitch-Hou

About The Author

Michael is Editor-In Chief of 3D Printing Industry and the founder of The Reality™ Institute, a service institute dedicated to determining what’s real and what’s not so that you don’t have to. He is a graduate of the MFA Critical Studies & Writing Program at CalArts, and a firm advocate of world peace. Michael currently resides in San Pedro with his magical wife, Danielle.

  • Martyn Hogg

    A shame to end this way, but what an awesome journey! My RepRapPro 3d Printer is still going strong and building it and using it has been, and still is, educational and empowering.

  • LegalTerms

    The shame is that the 3DS has acquired all of the other competition, leaving the low cost end of 3D printing machine industry to be diminished by a corporation in domination mode.

    God bless the little fish and long should they survive and flourish.

  • Jeff Brown

    This is primarily directed to Mr. Bowyer, a man who obviously has a great amount of knowledge in this area and I would pose to him or to explore another

    avenue regarding decisions on “activities to consider” going forwards in his life. A

    simple question that no one seems to be able to answer follows:

    Can you (or anyone) visualize a design of a 3-D printer that could, in time, RAPIDLY manufacturer ONLY Spheres (spherical SHELLS like the outside of an

    egg)?

    When replication could occur to create a larger machine that could mfg shells between 8.8 feet in diameter up to 30 feet in diameter, then a new technology could offer the emergence of a global cottage industry as a most proficient container system available and with a multitude of uses beyond that. Allow me to explain briefly why and I apologize for what may appear lengthy, but believe me, what follows is a brief synopsis of a project first introduced to me in 1975. Only a handful of people seem to understand the idea back then since the planet as a

    whole thought it wasn’t in need of anything and a radical change in”architecture” raised few eyebrows . Technology advancements have been occurring slower than desired and this low-ebb will remain until replication curves can head upwards at an exponential rates. The earth’s inhabitants were

    not ready then, but are now. Below is an excerpt from a paper I’m authoring

    that attempts to get the “idea” across.

    __________________________________________________________

    21st

    Century Communities

    Horizons of Spherical Architecture

    The following two (2) proposals warrant consideration:

    1) The word SPHERE, when considered a natural absolute, to be additionally

    defined by a newly submitted acronym, MTMS-5 (Momentless-Tensionless-Membrane-Self-Supporting-Shell-Structure). A well-recognized natural absolute is an egg. Although oblong, not spherical, the egg is still defined as a MTMS-5 as it is Self- Supporting as it does not require a foundation. This acronym is not yet recognized in engineering circles yet the term accurately and definitively describes a sphere. When a sphere is defined as an MTMS-5 it is the most natural absolute perhaps even more important is the strongest structure known to man. This may seem like a lot to absorb in one thought, especially when suggesting that a sphere could provide great utility when approaching global and human problems and needs.

    Readers of this report should literally include everyone since the planet belongs to everyone and with the majority of people throughout the world experiencing more hunger, poverty, and illness, not to mention all the accidents and damages caused by earth’s natural movements. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and fires, all events that have had tremendous negative impact on the neural, psychic and emotional energies of human beings which are causing self-degenerating frequencies and subsequent mental and spiritual disarray. I anticipate further research will support a plausible expectation to occur when entering a 2.7 meter (8.8 feet) sphere. A person will experience a bio-magnetically enhancing, rejuvenating and balancing process that would go a long way in replenishing the planet from all energy angles.

    Humans, for the most part, are still in the Middle Ages and can’t figure it out as evidenced by continual religious and hate wars on every level, from individuals committing violent crimes to countries slaughtering one another. The frequency of these type events is increasing at exponential rates. It is important that our entire future civilization evolve into a more humanitarian species as our existence could depend on it. Evolving or ascending into higher realms of positive energy systems will not happen from individual to individual unless something common happens to everyone’s experience that “automatically” (the big question) allows for positive growth soulfully, spiritually, mentally and physically. There is much beyond our own comprehension in store for every individual as well for the race. This is not a document of doom and gloom but one based on an earnest humanitarian effort to distribute this information in hopes it may achieve peace, love and happiness everywhere. Again, a mouth-full to swallow, but if anything could work on a needed grandiose scale, this concept deserves exploration.

    For reasons beyond most rational thinking, I developed a hypothesis on energy systems inside spheres that came about from various sources, but a few readings and studies served as a major impetus in developing this hypothesis. Experiments from pyramidologist Pat Flannigan’s Pyramid Power coupled with new re-interpretative views of several details from Peter Lemesurier’s The Great Pyramid Decoded sparked intuition and a real life experience with what I considered a recognized clandestine meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia with a gentleman ‘walk-in’ 1975 only affirmed this reasoning. Due to recent laboratory testing on live matter inside spheres under controlled LED inputs and sound frequencies, an ancient message has surfaced that supports this finding.

    The missing capstone from the Giza pyramid alluded many investigators and theories until recently when Miguel Pérez-Sánchez,renown Spanish architect / pyramidologist after 10 years of computer modeling and advanced scanning technologies (see photo below) on the Pyramid of Cheops (also known as the Giza Pyramid) may provide the stepping stone that helps elevate humans to global unity with further advancements to occur exponentially. What has been written here may seem like science fiction, but it seems we may be running out of options and at this point, there’s nothing to loose, only a lot to gain. At one time the idea of a flying machine was a dream. Now we have space travel as science fiction proved again it paves ways to new realities.

    Proposal 2) The introduction of Spherical Architecture as applied to utility and best use of spherical shellsvwill require sizes between 8 feet and 30 feet in diameter to be manufactured in mass and rapidly. The purpose of this report is to provoke further thought, insight and progressive discussions that may help achieve a more complimentary life for all beings in accordance with Mother Earth and Universal Laws.

    Jeffrey M. Brown

    “The time for the test as come”