Abstract: We have achieved product release of a manually-controlled, high-performance, hydraulic Compresssed Eearth Brick (CEB) press, The Liberator. The initial version is selling forÂ $3500 – $5500. Our present state of development is automation, which will increase the brick production rate from a maximum of 4-5 bricks/min in the manual version to 8-12 bricks/min in the automatic version. Initial tests with an Arduino-based automatic controller have been performed using small solenoid valves (10 gpm), and higher throughput (25 gpm) hydraulic valves are the next step. We are looking for collaborators to assist in business development according to the principles of free hardware. The business model itself will be free – as in free to examine, use, modify, and distribute without restriction – and modifications must also be made likewise available. Key to maintaining freedom of the enterprise is addressing patent issues by open publishing in trade journals and other venues – for enforceability of freedom of the CEB press. Business development involves fabrication optimization, open source tooling development, machine testing, marketing, development of design/fabrication drawings and design repository, recruiting of a developer community, web development, and production/sales contracts development.
The term free enterprise that is used by mainstream economics really means monopoly capitalism. This is far from the definition proposed by Jefferson and other seminal thinkers on the topic. It is also the opposite of the way we use this term at Factor e Farm and in the Free Software/Hardware movement in general.
Free enterprise to us is free as defined by the Free Software Foundation. This means four freedoms: freedom to examine, to use, to distribute, and to modify – without restriction outside of preserving these freedoms for the future.
We should also make a distinction between Open Business Models and Free Business Models. We start with the difference between free and open source. Open source means one freedom: the freedom to examine the source or workings of something. Free, as defined by the Free Software Foundation, means theÂ four freedoms above. Therefore, for example, for an open source product – you might be able to view the design – but that may not mean that you can produce, change, or distribute the design without restrictions. The restriction is typically some form of tithe to the authors. That is a means to assure economic advantage – to the authors.
On top of this, we must note that the open source business model, as used in business today – is confusing. When people say open source business model, they mean a business model based on open source products – not a business model that is open source in itself. In the former case, open source describes the products being considered in the business model. In the latter case, open source describes the business model itself. The confusion comes because no distinction is made between the business model itself and the content of the business model. For example, people say that selling Linux support is an open source business model. What they mean is that their business model deals with Linux, which is an open source computer system. They are not discussing the techniques and strategies of the business plan by which people are making money from selling Linux service.
To us, an open source business model is a business model whose business plan and strategy is documented – such that others can replicate it. This distinction is crucial – because if the business model itself is open source, and even further – free – then many people can replicate this business model without suffering from high barriers to entry. This results in widespread dissemination of economic power – which constitutes a disruptive economic force in today’s monopoly capitalism.
In order to promote enterprise replication, it is not enough to have open content as the subject of the business model. A business model has all the issues of business planning and business strategy involved – so to promote enterprise replication – these must be documented. The business model part (as opposed to the subject thereof) is the more difficult part of the two when it comes to running a successful enterprise. Does this make sense?
A free business model with free content is precisely our intent, and The Liberator is the first case in point. We consider this freedom as the only route for realizing a post-scarcity economy – by creating low entry barriers for successful enterprise replication. If the enterprise is good for the world, we benefit by contributing to a better world. Everybody wins. Can we make a living then? As Makerbot leadership says, we can still sell atoms, services, and our time – but information should be free – so we should not be charging for bits (units of information).
I am not aware of any free business models in existence. Instead, there are franchises, where you pay a license fee for using a certain business model. This includes the GEK, which as far as I understand, licenses the production of their open source gasifier.That’s certainly a viable business model, but it is limited in its disruptive potential. Common franchises such as Taco Bell are a boon and a bane – but they are definitely not transformative from the standpoint of creating a post-scarcity economy. Yo quiero Taco Bell, they say, and the world keeps burning.
We try to make the points above clear because there’s a profound difference in the nature of free products and non-free products. Free products imply disruptive economic potential – in that the means of production are more accessible to everybody (what is called distributive economics). Non-free, non-open source products imply concentration of power – the trend that is still in vogue in today’s economic system.
We here propose the collaborative development of a Free Enterprise model for our high performance, open source, free Compressed Earth Brick (CEB) press – The Liberator. Here is the status of the Free Press Free Enterprise, and a call-out to co-developers.
Please contact me at marcin at replab dot org to continue this discussion, and leave your response in the comments as well.