Factor e Live – Distillations Part 2 – Product Ecologies

Today we continue with Episode 2 of Factor e Live Distillations – on the products and product ecologies of the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS). You can listen to the video, and the supporting diagrams are shown below along with a transcript of the talk.

Transcript: Welcome to Factor e Live – Distillations Part 2. Yesterday we presented an overview of our work and introduced the 1000 True Fans – 1000 Global Villages campaign. Today we will discuss the individual products and product ecologies for the GVCS.It is important to discuss the components to lay a solid foundation for understanding the applications. Although this work is primarily based on the integration of already existing knowhow and techniques – the goal is to make a far departure beyond the status quo – by integrated, ecological, open source, systems design.We have five categories of products, shown in the first diagram.These consist of a total of about 40 individual items. This is a limited set – but it is robust and sufficient. Indeed, we claim that these items can produce the infrastructure for an advanced civilization – with the particular focus on resilient communities – starting in the 1st or 3rd world. The main assumption is that steel – one of the cornerstones of modern civilization – can be found in abundance as industrial scrap.The components shown in green are the main priorities, while the blue ones include those that we will pursue only if we collect more than 1000 supporters.

What is our point? The list refers to not just a collection of items – but open source items.

What does open-sourcing mean? It means that the know-how for producing the items becomes transparent and accessible. But also, congruent with OSE goals– it means that the designs and production processes are optimized – so that efficient production can occur. If efficient production can occur, that means that viable, small enterprise is enabled. If small enterprise is enabled, the possibilities of economic localization arise. When localization occurs, capital does not leak out of communities, and communities become more self-sufficient. This creates prosperous and resilient communities. That is the promise of open source economic development – and the reason why we put so much emphasis on the open source concept. This is simply known as sharing.

We believe that open-sourcing can provide a concrete foundation for an economy of abundance. We are not using abundance as a light-hearted hippie term – but a rigorous set of conditions that allow people to thrive in a world of plenty. This is a much deeper discussion, and will be left for another episode. For now, imagine simply that you have products like today – but they last a lifetime and cost a factor of 10 less (for major infrastructure items), because of optimization and elimination of waste – and are produced primarily in local economies because the enabling techniques are transparent – therefore they can be learned and replicated locally without high barriers to entry.

Now, back to the components: we start with housing and construction.

This basic building infrastructure involves the multipurpose, open source tractor – with site and soil preparation implements, and the Compressed Earth Brick press.

With a couple more tech additions – like the sawmill and insulating compressed blocks, we move straight on to advanced housing. To go off-grid, we used the solar power generator system – where off-grid living becomes an option for everybody.

The solar power infastructure is based on solar concentrators – and it includes heat storage and power backup, and relies on the modern steam engine. What is unique about this? In 10,000 years of recorded civilization, no one yet came up with a replicable, home-scale power generation system – based on concentrated solar thermal power. Sure, some one-of-a kind, very expensive ones were made – but none that are replicable. We think that we’ve got a system that will break this 10,000 year trend.

Now what about a steam engine? Is it a bad choice? Actually not. It’s proven technology. Indeed, it created the industrial revolution. Now it can be used to create the forthcoming solar economy – when it is used as the heat engine in a solar power generator. It also happens to be a power source with power density as good as the gasoline internal combusion engine. Plus – the technology has been around – and you can make this at home. Is it worth revisiting as a power source for advanced civilization? We’re not the only ones that think so.

How do you make a steam engine at home? With Personal Fabrication.

Personal fabrication will be covered more in a dedicated episode. For now, the point is – you can create such a small but advanced workshop for your home, tribe, or village – for $10k, and make plows, steam engines, microelectronics, up to heavy equipment. No kidding. This is not a magical black box, though – or some exotic Personal Fabricator. Skilled labor plus sweat of brow is required. But, you do have computer-controls and global sharing of design as real possibilities to assist you. This is a possibility of on-demand-production that can change the world. You can make all the tools or products that you ever use or would find at your local hardware store – in your garage workshop.

Next is the more complete solar ecology. This includes fuel, power, and vehicles. Note this is all fueled by the sun – direct power, heat storage, or biofuels. We’ve added a small version of the tractor here – a 2-wheel walk-behind tractor – plus an open source general purpose car – OSGP – read open source jeep. If any one vehicle engine fails – you can interchange the engine from the other two. This is modular design at its best, powered by steam. Spend the money or build the three vehicles once in your life – and they will never depreciate when you can take care of them yourself. Moreover, it is possible that heat storage may work as an energy source for vehicles – so – for example – you could have a solar-powered tractor.

So now we can revisit the CEB machine – to see how it fits into a deeper product ecology:

This ecology includes fabrication of the CEB press, as well as applications of the CEB press – to other parts of a global village.

Here is the local food systems part. It’s a combination of a repository of living material and lifetime equipment base – fueled entirely by the sun – and capable of producing not only food – but lumber, fuel, rubber, and other food processing items. Any resilient community should have such an equipment and genetic base. The focus is on perennial agriculture, which can be a viable, lower maintenance option for 100% food provision. The program for this will be described in another video.

The ICT part is more ambitious . If there are 1000 Global Villages worldwide, they could in principle use point-to-point communications and establish a network that can be either tied in to the internet backbone, or could operate independently. To span the entire globe – the network would involve a tower every 10 miles – where 1000 towers would mean that the entire globe is spanned. The electronics required to do this cost $100 per tower – and towers can be recast from scrap steel – and can be powered by solar thermal power generators. The creation of such a network is wholly feasible, though peer-to-peer channels as opposed to top-down investment – and may be quite handy in case of any disruptions of the mainstream internet.

Already, you can begin to see that a small set of technologies is capable of providing a large number of services. The set of technologies is indeed so small that it can be packaged as an infrastructure in a box – which could allow a person or group to settle a habitat and live – wisely, productively, efficiently – by using local resources. This is a brief introduction to all the technologies, which we will explain in further detail.

Sam Rose of Social Synergy is our first True Fan in the 1000 True Fans – 1000 Global Villages campaign. Reto Stauss is our second. Lucas Gonzalez is our third. So if you want to support us – take the red pill – and dare to change the world. Here is the PayPal subscription button, where you can use either PayPal, credit card, or bank account to commit to the subscription.


  1. Fabio

    Hey Marcin – you are just amazing!!! You just DO things! Can’t wait for the next episode!

  2. Erik

    I like how you see personal fabrication as one of your infrastructural pillars. It would be mostly helpful once there are more of these villages, so that they can share the designs of their contemporary needs and start building a repository of tools and every-day objects that can be transfered easily. is a RepRap originated site to share such designs. It already contains many objects that can be printed or laser/CNC cut, including a wire cutting machine, a peristaltic pump, a complete working lock, robot parts, and much more. Though I’d expect locks are not needed in a world of abundance and growing mutual trust. We should start up a design contest for useful tools! This way the world can contribute to this project with it’s creativity in addition to financial support.

    I’ll be following your progress closely. It’s amazing what you’ve done so far!

    Erik de Bruijn

  3. Marcin

    Erik, can you please summarize the latest progress on the capabilities and specifications of RepRap? We see that as a serious contribution to personal fabrication – if it can achieve basic performance for doing metal casting molds. What is the highest accuracy that can be produced? We are interested in items such as cylinder castings for steam engines (for a breakthrough solar thermal concentrator electrical generator system), and we have been quite excited lately about casting our own hydraulic pumps and motors. This is not to mention casting of structural steel, but we would not need RepRap for that – we could use real pieces of steel as the basis for molds.

    We have RepRap in the back of our mind – and we would like to have a copy of it here as soon as possible to do further development work. How would we go about getting a copy here?

    The promise – which you may appreciate – is to then be able to produce items like the CEB press or open source tractor – at the cost of scrap metal. This means $80 plus labor for the CEB press, $400 plus labor for the present LifeTrac! That has clear transformative potential – and clear potential to close the industrial divide between the first and third world. The price does not include labor – but even that is a point of optimization – where digital assist can produce magic – if combined with high skill of the operator. So we have a return to skilled labor forthcoming on a larger scale – like the artisans of the Renaissance.

    This is history in the making – and it is just around the corner. Personally speaking – it is a shame that there are very few people who understand this concept or take it seriously. This is a shame because we have the reinvention of the entire industrial apparatus right in front of us – and not many people are jumping at the opportunity. In particular, I have not heard anyone else discuss ‘recasting a new civilization at the cost of scrap metal’ in any serious way. I will be discussing this in a separate video.

  4. Lucas

    “Episode” captures it. Which is why I’ve joined the Thousand Squared initiative, ‘cos this is really a pay-per-view adventure. Some folks spend their bucks in cigs. :shrug: 🙂

    Seriously, I can imagine village builders _investing_, attention and bucks and developement time, in this. These folks already have a good track record of productivity. If they stop producing, True Fans will fly and that’ll be it, so not much lost. Crowdfunded capitalism anyone? 😉

    If only 10% of what’s promised is delivered, that’s more than others do.

    Street-performer protocol at its best.

    I want new episodes, too.

  5. […] explaining the product development so far. Here’s the second in the series. More explanations here and part 1 was already featured […]

  6. Reto

    I’m starting a process to explore what Open Source Economy and Production can do in my context in Switzerland. As soon as there is some meat on the bone I’ll let you know (although it will be in German).

  7. Erik

    Getting a RepRap to you would be something. I can advise you on this subject. I’ve organized several RepRap projects and help people with supplies and buying decisions. In a couple of weeks I’ll have a little bit of free time. Contact me at that time. Seeing you build LifeTrac gives me confidence that you will actually be casting metals in a reasonable amount of time! I’ve got another friend interested in 3D printing in wax to do lost-wax casting. We could share (and GPLv3 the results, of course)!

  8. Leon Neihouse

    I applaud your efforts and wish you the best of success.

    I am investigating the same problem but from a different perspective. My approach is to seek sophisticated investors (as defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission) with a sense of social responsibility. If I can find them, I will seek to enlist their assistance in the development and replication of micro farms and micro cities.

    I am working with MBA students from the University of Southern Maine on business plans designed to demonstrate the financial feasibility of this method with a goal to have a book ready on or before 1 September of this year for consideration by these investors.

    If this is of interest, progress is being tracked on the internet at

  9. […] In summary, this process means that we do the following for each of the 40 pieces of the Global Village Construction Set: […]

  10. LifeTrac 3D | Factor e Farm Weblog

    […] is to build MicroTrac – the smaller, 2-wheel walk-behind partner to LifeTrac, mentioned in the Distillations Part 2. It’s a partner  because it will have an engine that can be interchanged with the larger […]

  11. […] PTO motor from LifeTrac as the power unit shown, so the motor cost is externalized as part of our infrastructure ecology. The lathe has a concrete bed of about 1000 lb […]