In my Materials class last week we watched a video that bothered me with a statement that the Lathe was the only machine that can reproduce itself. Its not as if there aren’t other machines that can do that, right? Actually wrong, after a small investigation the Lathe and the Mill are the only 2 machines that have a chance of making themselves in the manner that I now think of it as. Many people on forums mentioned Dave Gingery who actually produced parts of a lathe using a casting then proceeded to use that lathe to make the parts more accurately and make the lathe more efficient. I have never seen this process before but I can tell you with almost absolute certainty that a 3D printer cannot do that. Of course a 3D printer can produce most of its support structure but many of the moving parts need to move along a straight metal rod, or multiple rods depending on the design, and many 3D printers cannot print metal so it is going to be a while before they can fully reproduce and they can’t make themselves from nothing unless I missed something. The only part of a lathe that cannot be made by a lathe is a power source which means that somehow you will have to hook it up to an engine or some type of turning machine (waterwheel maybe?). Assuming that the 3D printer would not be able to make the computer which is like the power module for the 3D printer but neither can it create the wires which power all of the processes while the gears would be easy to make in a lathe with some modifications.
So I say that the video about lathes when they say the lathe is the only machine to make itself is most likely right other than the fact that it can’t do that without an operator which is an argument in its own right.