There is a significant set of open source technologies available for rapid prototyping in small workshops. By combining 3D printing with low-cost metal casting, and following with machining using a computer controlled Multimachine, the capacity arises to make rapid prototypes and products from plastic and metal. This still does not address the feedstocks used, but it is a practical step towards the post-centralist, participatory, distributive economy with industrial swadeshi on a regional scale.
- RepRap – open source 3D Printer – has just achieved self-replication. In itself, this is a rapid prototyper for objects in plastic.
- Small-scale metal casting technology is readily available for backyard-scale metal casting, such as the melting of hubcaps in this picture – using free waste vegetable or motor oil: (source)
- In particular, a waste oil burner such as the Babington burner may be utilized as the heat source.
- Multimachine – an open source multipurpose machining tool is available for milling, drilling, lathing, metal forming, and other applications.
The interesting part is that the budget is $500 for RepRap, $200 for the casting equipment, and $1500 for a Multimachine with CNC control added. Using available knowhow, this can be put together in a small workshop for a total of about $2200 – for full, LinuxCNC computer controlled rapid fabrication in plastic and metal. Designs may be downloaded from the internet, and local production can take place based on global design.
This rapid fabrication package is one of our near-term (one year) goals. The research project in this area involves the fabrication and integration of the individual components as described. Factor e Farm is willing to provide materials funding for students interested in taking this on as a development project – please contact us if you are an engineering or independent student, or if you know somebody who is qualified to take on this project.
Such a project is interesting from the standpoint of localized production in the context of the global economy – for creating significant wealth in local economies. This is what we call industrial swadeshi. For example, I see this as the key to casting and fabricating low-cost steam engines ($300 for 5 hp) for the Solar Turbine – as one example of Gandhi’s mass production philosophy.