A 3D printed laser cutter, aerosol solar cells, and reversing neural networks.

3D printers are great for making things, including more of themselves. The first really accessible 3D printer, the RepRap was designed to be buildable from locally sourceable components - metal rods, bolds, screws, and wires, and the rest can be run off on another 3D printer. There is even a variant called the JunkStrap which, as the name implies, involves repurposing electromechanical junk for basic components. There are other useful shop tools which don't necessarily have open source equivalents, though, like laser cutters for precisely cutting, carving, and etching solid materials. Lasers are finicky beasts - they require lots of power, they …

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Flexible solar panels now large enough to be practical.

Back in the 80's Edmund Scientific used to sell an amorphous solar cell educational kit: a small lozenge of flexible plastic that contained a pinkish purple solar panel, a couple of lengths of wire, a small light, and a tiny electric fan. The nifty thing about that little solar cell was that it really was flexible; unlike the rigid crystalline solar panels we've all seen you could curl that little sucker around your finger and it would still work if you set it in the sun. While they don't appear to sell that exact kit anymore (and if I'm wrong …

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