Bath University has unveiled a machine that could manufacture household objects to order in the home of the future.
Dr Adrian Bowyer, of the University's Centre for Biomimetics, said that he has adapted a fast prototype generator used in the car industry to make simple household objects.
After picking them on a computer the device uses metal and plastic to make shapes from a few millimetres to 300 millimetres in length, width and height.
The device currently costs a whopping £25,000, but Bowyer believes that the machines could be built to replicate themselves and thus drive down the cost.
"People have been talking for years about the cost of these machines dropping to be about the same as a computer printer," he said. "But it hasn't happened. Maybe my idea will allow this to occur."
Bowyer explained that, once he had built a machine that could replicate itself, he would not apply for any patents and would make the plans publicly available on the internet.
The proposed device would be the size of a washing machine and could make itself part by part before being assembled by a human operator.
The idea of self-replicating machinery was first proposed seriously by Hungarian scientist John von Neumann, who called them 'universal constructors'.
The idea was adapted for the concept of space flight, where a single machine would land, reproduce and move on, thus exploring the galaxy at an exponential rate.
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