Jake Von Slatt's steampunk computer
This combination of mass produced industrial hardware and individual craftsmanship only lasted for a short time. Rising labour costs and the creation of the assembly line brought us to our modern world, where everything is affordable but nothing is unique.
So how does this relate to Rapid Prototyping? Well, we are now entering another era when individuals will be able to manufacture, in their own workshops, whatever they desire. These items will be as individual as their creators and, even if we all pass around the .STL files to make multiple copies, there is always an impulse to personalize “your” version of someone else’s design. A quick look at repstraps out there shows an amazing variety of designs, all reflecting their creator’s individual goals and design choices. They even have unique names, as was common for Victorian devices.
I have been wondering what a steampunk Mendel would look like. The rod used throughout would have to be brass, of course, as would all the connectors. The various plastic parts could probably be made out of wood but that really goes against the whole reprap philosophy. Perhaps black ABS with scrollwork grooves that could be later picked out with gold paint. Add a build surface of polished wood with a brass plate for the heater and you have a RepRap for Captain Nemo. Handy when you are on the bottom of the ocean without your full shipyard available and you need a replacement trigger for your electric rifle.
Nemo: "Drat, my electro-rifle is damaged. To the Mendel M. Aronnax!"
Perhaps the actual steampunk fad has just about run its’ course. Now that it seems to be everywhere on the internet, maybe folks will become bored with it. I hope not, I love the whole brass and wood look with the elegence that they imply. I am not enough of a sociologist to know for sure how long steampunk will last but I believe that the underlying philosophy that drives the design and creation of such unique hardware will continue to be apparent in the RepRap community for years to come