Week 2 - Self-replicating machines

Self-replicating machines and how they work

Self-replicating machines

A self-replicating machine is a construct that is capable of reproducing itself autonomously using raw materials found in the environment, thus exhibiting self-replication in a way analogous to that found in nature. The concept of self-replicating machines has been advanced and examined by Homer Jacobsen, Edward F. Moore, Freeman Dyson, John von Neumann and in more recent times by K. Eric Drexler in his book on nanotechnology, Engines of Creation and by Robert Freitas and Ralph Merkle in their review Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines[1] which provided the first comprehensive analysis of the entire replicator design space.

  • Name: Desmond Lim
  • Interests: Fabrication, Making
  • Location: MIT Media Lab
  • Date: March 2015

Project 01a
This week we had to learn about self-replicating and the mechanism of how it works. I took a stab at all the readings and found it to be a very complex and intriguing concept. As Professor Neil always says in class, the essence of life is to self-replicate. I strongly believe in that. As human beings, we have this innate need to self-replicate and to reproduce, if we lose this ability, the human population will diminish and dwindle out eventually. Beyond humans, there are also many other things that can self-replicate and reproduce, though I am new to this concept, it is a very interesting one. The most interesting reading for me was the concepts in the Penrose reading, Mechanics of Self-reproduction L.S Penrose; Annals of Human Genetics Sep 1958. Based on that reading, I went on to model my own self-replicating mechanism using his diagram above.
Project 01b
Next, I went onto Solidworks and tried to play around. As I used to use Rhino in the past, I was not that used to Solidworks, and had to go through an entire process of downloading Bootcamp for my Macbook, and installing Solidworks. That took a lot of effort as I had to purchase the windows software, and in the process of downloading boot camp actually wiped out my entire hard drive!! Working on it over the weekend, I finally got solidworks to work and was able to play around with it. Above you will see Part A from the Penrose reading that I CAD-ed from Solidworks. It was not as difficult as I thought, and I was able to get help from Morris, Dan, and Tomo!
Project 01a
Above you will be able to find part B! I found a few good functions in Solidworks including "Smart dimensions" and clicking on two lines to specify the "angle" between them helped me a lot to CAD parts A and B.
Project 01a
I created three parts: Part A, Part B, and the rectangle box to fit all the parts in. Next, I created an assembly to fit everything in. I had some problems with orientating everything on the same plane, but was able to do so using "parallel mate" and also orientating them on the same axis with a click on a small box at the top.
Project 01a
Finally, I wanted to try and recreate the video of the self-replicating mechanism, but I did face some challenges here which I hope to work out in the coming week. I was not able to do so, as I had problems using the "dynamic collision" function. The advice from Morris / Tomo were as follows: To maneuver. 1. select only one part, the part you will maneuver 2. click move component on the top bar. 3. click physical dynamics (dont have to click collision detection, it is a subset of physical dynamics) 3a. I think you can only click either one, since they are radio buttons, not check boxes 4. move the part! And yes, to record, press "Record Video" on the top. However, I was still not able to completely create the physical dynamics effect. I will work on it more this coming week!