Grow your own kidney?


Yesterday we welcomed Malcolm from e-mpirical to chat about open source hardware, and in particular the RepRap machine – the 3D printer that replicates it’s own parts.

The replicating rapid prototyper (RepRap to you and me) was pioneered by Dr Adrian Bowyer. The vision was to create a machine which could be cheaply distributed, and that could then self-replicate its own parts, enabling communities to create complex products without needing expensive industrial infrastructure.

As an open source project, 3D printing models like the [email protected] and the ReRap bypass the commercial costs associated with intellectual property agreements. Priced therefore at around 5% of the cost of a commercial model, the community of users is growing rapidly, as is the leaps in innovation in how they can be used.


MB’s Campbell intro’d the Lunch and Learn session by asking the MB team to consider the effect 3d printing might have on the design industry, as the ability to design and create a physical 3D form becomes increasingly faster and more cost effective. Referencing the expressionist movement in architectural design, which saw the earliest uses of computers in structural analysis, (and enabled the construction of the Sydney Opera House) Campbell encouraged the team to think big.

As a forerunner in the adoption and education of the RepRap technology, Malcom is equally excited about its potential. He reminisced about the early 90’s, when general public opinion of the ‘world wide web’ lay somewhere between apprehension and indifference. Malcolm had a hunch it was sort-of-a-big-deal, and has the same hunch about 3D printing.

MB’s next studio-wide internal project will play around with what can be produced with a 3D printer. We’re not giving away details on what we’re producing just yet, but don’t expect anything at Dr Anthony Atala’s level. The regenerative medicine guru hit the stage at Ted earlier this year and casually announced he used 3D printing technology to generate a fully-functioning human kidney. Yes, it blew our minds when Malcolm mentioned this yesterday. Gonna be hard to top that…


  • I’m really excited to see what you guys at MB come up with, 3D printing looks endless with possibilities.