Today’s Factor e Live Distillations focuses on Personal Fabrication. We discuss our goals of establishing a robust and replicable, high-performance flexible fabrication facility for producing just about anything – while relying largely on local resources – and while participating as a producer in a global market economy.
This post is a good overview of the type of tools that are already available – today – and which could be put together into a high-power, digital fabrication package – the Open Source Fab Lab. While the tools are already available and significant development has already been done, their integration into a meaningful productive ecology is the remaining task – in terms of providing a useful toolset for Global Village construction. The Personal Fabrication package is perhaps the most important piece of the Global Village Construction Set – in that these tools are used to create supporting hardware and machinery – for tasks ranging from agriculture to wireless communications. We hope that this presentation will help you see for yourself the kinds of applications and power that is already available to anyone who chooses to use these tools, as a step towards taking advantage of these tools. As was said about one particular example of the available technologies – the 3D printer called RepRap – “Think of RepRap as a China on your desktop.”
Our work in general is aimed at building the infrastructure for real-life Global Villages – which you can replicate in whole or in part. You can also see our earlier presentation on the Global Village Construction Set. To support this work, join the 1000 True Fans â€“ 1000 Global Villages campaign – by committing to $10 per month for 24 months. Here is the PayPal subscription button, where you can use either PayPal, credit card, or bank account to commit to the subscription.
Here is the transcript and supporting links for this video.
Welcome to Factor e Live Distillations â€“ part 6. I must begin by saying that we are flooded with various quality feedback. One thing that became clear is that a number of people are offended by speculation of societal outcome â€“ when we talk about post-industrial economies, distributed personal fabrication, and peer-based economies in general. The fact is that we are talking about an emerging phenomenon. It is about change. Change is the essence of life itself, but it is also scary for most people. We found out that talking about the possibilities â€“ of a transformative economy â€“ is controversial and quickly turns sensible discussion into irrational babble. This is distracting, so to avoid this, we thus accept that we should not talk about religion or politics at the dinner table â€“about Transformative Economics.With this said, we will stick to simply describing our program, and letting you make most of the conclusions on the societal outcomes.Today we will talk about our program of personal fabrication â€“ a state of art, flexible production facility – that we will house in the workshop that you saw in the last video. In this workshop, we will produce tractors, CEB presses, steam engines, and just about anything else related to the infrastructure of globally-interlinked communities.
As another note of explanation, we keep talking about â€˜we will do thisâ€™ and â€˜we will do that.â€™ The proper way to interpret that â€“ in order to state clearly how YOUâ€™re benefiting from this work â€“ is to include YOURSELF in the â€˜we will do thisâ€™. This is because our fundamental goal is to enable YOU or anybody to do the same. How? We are opensourcing the techniques. Then bringing down the cost to the lowest possible, for either DIY production â€“ as well as developing business models that can work within a market economy. We will help people build the necessary infrastructure â€“ first by opensourcing the related tooling – and by providing training materials and hands-on courses. Our basic goal is to train producers. We will also sell parts and kits. I have not mentioned this yet, but our workshop is open for use to our True Fans. Thatâ€™s one of the ways weâ€™re giving back. So if youâ€™re traveling, you can consider visiting us as part of a productive vacation. We will also be offering master fabricator training â€“ free to Fans, and at a fee to non-supporters. To make the economics work out, the trainees will actually produce real products as part of their training, and these products can be exchanged for value. This is why you should subscribe with the trivial amount of $10/month â€“ to see this happen sooner rather than later. Weâ€™re sharing the development risk, and we actually believe that thereâ€™s at least 1/10000 of 1% of the worldâ€™s population that believes in this enough to become a supporter.
This is a mouthful â€“ we know â€“ and weâ€™re not going to be able to do that by ourselves. One critique we receive is that weâ€™re talking of all types of â€˜futureâ€™ things. No, this is to be done right now â€“ if you volunteer with us. If we find the people, what you see described below is all to be done NOW, using proven technologies, most of which are already open source to a significant degree.
Back to the topic. Personal Fabrication â€“ flexible workshop. Here is our program, listed in logical steps.
Install a metal-melting furnace with about 300 lb meling capacity per hour.
Cast structural steel frame tubing for LifeTrac.
Cast frame for CEB press.
Cast steam engine blocks. Use RepRap 3D printing in plastic, both to recycle plastics and to create molds for casting of fine parts, such as bushings and hydraulic motors and pumps. “Think of RepRap as a China on your desktop.”
Brief economic analysis shows that our labor in this is worth about $1000 per person per day – in a basic foundry â€“ in turning scrap metal to useful parts. We are really talking of reducing the cost of the CEB machine, tractor â€“ down to the cost of scrap metal plus labor, plus fuel, which is only about 2 gallons per hour for this particular case above. Our Foundry budget is between $100 and $1000 for the above case.
For structural steel, we may be able to use castings directly â€“ such as frame of LifeTrac. For a steam engine, we would have to use a lathe to bore out the cylinder. The Mutlimachine is an existing open source tooling platform – see video.
The Multimachine is a universal machining tool â€“ which relies on the fact that in any maching operation, either the tool or work piece rotates. The multimachine allows this, and it is very flexible. We are considering an even more simple turning lathe. Combine our rotor mounting that weâ€™ve experienced with the LifeTrac rototiller –
with a concrete bed with bolts â€“
then add an xy table, tool post, and chuck â€“ and weâ€™re done. The motor is already available as part of LifeTrac infrastructure.
That covers an industrial lathe. 20 hp of motor is enough to turn railcar wheels. We can make our shaft pretty heavy, and 2 1/4â€ bearings at Surpluscenter – $21 each. 2 of those, some metal, a $70 cross slide, and for $300 you have a heavy duty, 12â€ lathe. See Bill of Materials on our steam engine page â€“ where the steam engine will be the first application of the lathe.
Now, a similar procedure will be used to fab a production drill press and milling machine, at similar cost. Once again, LifeTrac hydraulic powered. To this, add CNC drive and LinuxCNC as the OS control software.
Next, move on to the torch table. This is a CNC XYZ table for cutting metal with an oxyacetylene torch or a plasma cutter. There is already a DIY plasma cutter on Instructables. On our torch table, progress is still lacking â€“ as weâ€™re still finishing the workshop to house this. The torch table is designed for us to cut all the metal from stock â€“ and in conjunction with casting, it provides robust fabrication capacity.
Now with the above, weâ€™re looking at 20 hour fabrication times for the CEB machine, and 40 hour fabrication times for the tractor kits. This is exciting â€“ optimizing production, opensourcing designs â€“ so that someone could build the same fab infrastructure, download a design, and cast or cut all the same parts. This is distributed manufacturing at its best, and we think itâ€™s just around the corner for everybody â€“ who wants to do this..
Last on the fab front â€“ there is electronics. Take a small, very precise version of the XYZ table, and you can etch circuit boards from copper-coated circuit blanks. (There are many examples at Instructables.com). Then use a micro drill press to drill holes for components, and you can fabricate circuits of all sorts. This is relevant to solar turbine controls, steam engine controls, inverters, chargers, wireless bridges, and many other devices.
Also, the micro drill press is used for drilling the itty bitty hole in the Babington burner, which we aim to use with the solar turbine, steam power vehicles, space heating, and the foundry.
Good open source 3D drawing software with a manageable learning curve is still needed â€“ as far as I know. Blender is perhaps the best one for 3D drafting and modeling â€“ but itâ€™s hard to learn. We did our sawmill design with Blender. Here is a sample of the x-axis track done with Blender:
To recap briefly â€“ if we perfect our ability to melt metal efficiently, print casting molds, and cast useful parts, then we have created the capacity of producing about $1k of value per person in one day. We combine that with subsequent computer assisted machine shop, ans well aas circuit fabrication â€“ to produce just about anything that another foundry, master fabricator, assembly plant, electronics fabricator, etc â€“ can produce.
We can thus make anything form plows to cars, engines and pumps, bridges to wireless bridges, and the like. We are pioneering not the concept, but the implementation. Once this is done, open source designs become available to everybody, and such a fab workshop itself can be reproduced at the cost of scrap metal plus labor. Then â€“ any person who wants to do this can engage in effective production â€“ with minimum barriers to entry. Weâ€™ll let you make the conclusions on possible applications. Among the crew at Factor e Farm, we call this Casting a New Civilization at the cost of Scrap Metal.
Thatâ€™s a brief overview of the goals for the next 2 years. Help us make this happen, and give us some useful feedback if this is also important to you. We are looking for advice on all of this.
We’ll be defining a rigorous collaborative development procedure in a future episode. This procedure is geared at creating a meaningful, open source product development effort that builds on the efforts of a large developer pool.