Interview with Dr Adrian Bowyer


Elio and Tobie visited Dr Adrian Bowyer, senior lecturer in theDepartment of Mechanical Engineering, at the University of Bath working in the Biomimetics Research Group.

Adrian Bowyer


Through his research, Adrian creates intersections between biology and engineering. Robots swim like fish or wriggle like worms, Darwinian evolution is deployed as a model for problem solving in mechanical systems, and machines can reproduce.

Underlying Adrian's work, there seems to be a belief that problem solving and creative thinking are tools that should be available for everyone. With a little patience, we can find pleasure and satisfaction through making our own things.

The documentation of our conversation is split into 9 sections:

There are a number of video clips from the discussion. Click to see movies, Quicktime 7 is required.

If you have any comments or questions about these clips, you can visit the forum.


1 The work of the Biomimetics group

Adrian Bowyer


Adrian's background (8.3 MB)

Adrian trained as a mechanical engineer, then worked in a mathmatics department, crossing to computing, returning to engineering


Biomimetics (4.9 MB)

A brief introduction to what Biomimetics is


Jumping vs. flying (5.4 MB)

How jumping can be more energy efficent than flying


Paddle worm (7.3 MB)

The movement of a paddle worm through mud influenced design of a colonic endoscope


Wood (11.2 MB)

Despite the weakness of its individual materials, wood has a tough composite structure


Fins (4.2 MB)

The advantages of using fins rather than propellers to move underwater vehicles


Researchers (3.9 MB)

A description of who is working on these projects, and how their roles are funded


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2 Translating natural systems into engineered systems

Adrian Bowyer


Motors as muscles (23.4 MB)

The ubiquitous electric motor could learn from the subtlety of muscular movements


Slavish (7.4 MB)

Drawing inspiration from nature is not the same as slavish copying


Evolution (14.7 MB)

Biological evolution is not necessarily the best way of designing a system


Products (13.2 MB)

Examples of products that have been influenced by nature


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3 Engaging with engineering

Adrian Bowyer


Aesthetics (6.6 MB)

Aesthetics and engineering in the collaborative work of Adrian and the artisit Jane Prophet


Learning (9.2 MB)

A project which translates the biomimetic research into teaching materials for secondary schools


News (4.9 MB)

Interviews for television, newspapers and the technical press are another form of output


Layers (4.8 MB)

These outputs can be imagined as a stack of layers, where each layer uses a different type of language

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4 Engineering and the media

Adrian Bowyer


Journalism (2.8 MB)

Journalism simplifies Adrian's research to communicate with a non-specialist readership


Acrylamide (9.4 MB)

An example of mis-reporting over the material acrylamide, and the danger it poses to humans


Different views (13.2 MB)

Researchers should be open to public scrutiny, and expect their work to be interpreted by the public


Making it work (7 MB)

Despite interpretations and story telling, engineering remains forcused on making things work technically


Stories and insights (4.3 MB)

Stories about the RepRap project don't offer new insights


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5 the RepRap project

Adrian Bowyer


Low cost (3.5 MB)

RepRap is purposefully a low cost project


Rapid prototyping (6.6 MB)

Rapid prototyping allows physical object to be build from computer files


Self assembly (4.4 MB)

The project was inspired by reproduction - a machine that can make versions of itself


Open source (8 MB)

Everyone is able to join the project and make their own RepRap machines


Widespread (3.8 MB)


One aim of making the intellectual property freely available this is to let the idea spread



6 Progress and other features of RepRap

Adrian Bowyer


Progress (3.3 MB)

The machine is already able to build the most complex part of itself


Documentation (3.1 MB)

All the designs and software are online and the project is supported by about ten people


Pricing (6 MB)

The machine is about the same price of a wahing machine, while commercial versions start at £15,000


Software (2.9 MB)

Sharing and giving away the software encourages rapid improvements to be made


Wave zero(2.8 MB)

Three additional machines are being built for use by other members of the RepRap team


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7 The social implications of RepRap

Adrian Bowyer


Early adopters (3.7 MB)

The first users of RepRap are likely to be technically minded


Evolution (6.1 MB)

As with the computer industry, the technology will become simpler and more widespread


Biomimesis (3.6 MB)

These machine replicate, like biological systems


Making (7.1 MB)

People will use the RepRap to make parts that can be assembled to make eveyday objects


Economics (6.9 MB)

A commercial company would not build a machine that they can't make money from


Patents (4.2 MB)

Patents can hold back on develpment as they restrict access to technology


Agriculture (3.7 MB)

RepRap invites us to look away from current models of manufacturing to our agricultural past


Micro-economy (2.2 MB)

Allowing people to make their own goods creates many, smaller economies


Grow your own (11.3 MB)

There is potential to grow the raw material the repRap uses to make things with


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8 The Tris project

Adrian Bowyer


TRIZ (7.2 MB)

TRIZ is a theory of inventive problem solving


Bike seat (4.1 MB)

A bike seat needs to be both narrow and broad - how an this be resolved?


Biology (6 MB)

An analysis of evolutionary problem solving in organisms provides a model for solving enginnering problems


Information (6.3 MB)

Engineers solve problems with energy and effort, nature relies on time and information


Social Fiction (6.3 MB)

Fiction imagines technology in radically different ways, where human behaviour is often unchallenged


Effort and return (5.6 MB)

Understanding the benefit of a technology encourages people to learn how to use it


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9 A quick tour

Adrian Bowyer


Demo (11.8 MB)

A demonstration of the RepRap machine with Ed Sells


Overview (9.1 MB)

A quick over view of the main electronic components and their function


Close up (1.8 MB)

To make an object the print head lays down material line by line, layer by layer


Support (3.6 MB)

Supports are added by a second print head to hold iregular shaped objects


TRIZ Matrix (6.5 MB)

A table for identifying principles to apply to problems


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Intervew by Elio and Tobie on 11th June 2007.