Well, it looks like November is finally over. And if I can write just one more post, I’ll have made the thirty-day challenge. So today, I’ll try and answer a reader-submitted question or two.

Q. What is a replicant printer?

A. You may be thinking of a rapid prototyping machine, or 3-D printer. This is a computer-controlled device that sculpts an object into existence by either cutting unwanted material away from a block of raw material, or by depositing layers of material upon one another until the desired form is obtained. Originally exotic devices that used ultraviolet lasers and tanks of photoreactive polymers, rapid prototyping machines are now commonly built by hobbyists. And there are signs that low-cost rapid prototyping machines may soon be available to the consumer. For example, one can already buy a computer-controlled woodworking mill.

However, the printing is only half the job. If one wishes to replicate an object (in size and shape, since this isn’t Star Trek– yet) then one must first enter these parameters into the controlling computer. This is an easy task if the object to be replicated is a cube, but the task grows more daunting as the object grows more complex. Enter the 3-D scanner. As with the 3-D printer, some hobbyists have already been experimenting with low-cost methods using milk and laser levels.

Q. Do cassette players have relays I can scavenge?

A. Generally not. However, it’s a fairly good bet that a modem or fax machine will give up at least one relay.

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