If one were to take notion of such a device to its extreme and couple it with the open source 3D-printed robots we know are already being made, it's not difficult to envision a robot that creates robots operating in the not-too-distant future.
And while the idea of a robot that can autonomously design and manufacture nearly anything that can be 3D-printed may sound outlandish to some, in truth, what iRobot has patented may actually amount to a 21st century cotton gin. That late 18th century invention revolutionized manufacturing and labor, and eventually led to the rise of the anti-automation group known as the Luddites in 19th century England.
If iRobot's patent eventually turns into a real machine — and there's no reason, given current technology, to think that it won't — we could find ourselves on the verge of yet another Luddite-style uprising from waves of unemployed human workers who no longer have even a toe-hold at major manufacturing plants. So while the grey goo of nanotechnology is probably far off, the "pink goo" of angry human workers around the world displaced by machines is definitely coming, it's just a matter of how long it will take machines similar to one described in iRobot's patent to arrive and take enough human jobs to start the Luddite ball rolling. You can read the details of iRobot's patent application here.
above is quote from article. Can't quite figure out what this patent is all about. Sounds like something which is far, far away in time.
This description makes it clearer what iRobot wants to do:
"While some 3D printers can make many of the parts needed to make a copy of themselves, most need human help to assemble the final product. Not for much longer: machines could soon be making machines if Roomba maker iRobot gets its way.
The Bedford, Massachusetts, firm has filed a US patent on a way to rid 3D printers of the need for pesky humans, allowing robots to do all the post-printing work to make a complete product. The firm notes that the output of 3D printers still needs a lot of human intervention: removing unwanted material such as burrs on plastic and metal parts, or removing powdery dust from internal voids that need stuffing with, say, circuit boards and batteries. And final assembly is done by hand, too, pushing together connectors and fasteners, for instance.
Enter iRobot's do-it-all robotic fabricator, comprising a twin-armed robot allied with a 3D printer, a milling machine and a drill, all on one platform. The platform is peppered with sensors so that a computer can choreograph all stages of manufacture, using the additive technique of 3D printing or the subtractive ones of milling and drilling, as needed. Both robot arms have dextrous grippers with six degrees of freedom, so one can hold a newly 3D-printed piece while the other secures another piece to it with glue, connectors or fasteners.
"Since no human intervention is used product design is simpler and production is more efficient," claim the inventors. It's clear is that if anyone thought 3D printers might spawn a new wave of employment they had better think again: it looks like any such benefit could be short-lived."
In an irobot presentation, Colin Angle mentioned that he would love to develop a robot that can fold your laundry but they aren't quite there yet. Seems like a laundry folding robot would be easier to make then the one being proposed in the patent.