Open Source Micro-Factory

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Imagine if you could build cars, industrial robots, engines, and other things in your own back yard. The only problem is, these require billions of dollars of infrastructure in the current industrial system. Not for long – if we succeed with the Open Source Micro-Factory.

We will be starting a viral Kickstarter campaign in the next week or two to make this concept a reality at a prototype development cost of about $100k. The concept is simple: open-source ~12 of the most important, high-performance machines of industrial production and automation, provide plans for all these machines, and provide plans for certain key products that can be built with these machines. This could be a serious contribution to realizing the concept of Industry 2.0 – a scenario of distributive, local production via flexible fabrication, fueled by a global repository of open source design. While such production can occur in your own back yard, our real intent is enabling the solution of creating wealth in local communities. The potential is profound – and is described best by Jane Jacobs, who claims that the highest level of evolution (like Maslow’s Pyramid) for cities – is for those cities to return to local production (import substitution).

The Micro-Factory includes the following:

In short, the Open Source Micro-Factory is a robust, closed-loop manufacturing system for many kinds of mechanical and electronic devices. It includes the ability to provide its own fuel, electricity, and mechanical power.

The designs are scalable in output. Our proposal includes open source blue-prints and CAM files for self-replication, starting from scrap metal as a feedstock. The above represents a rough sketch, with break-through economics included – such as building a $50k-value tractor at about $3k in parts, or 50 hp hydraulic motors at about $50 in parts via open source induction furnace, casting, and precision machining. So we’re beginning our foray into the next phase of fabrication – making our own components, as opposed to outsourcing from China.

See the Global Village Construction Set Product Ecologies page on the wiki for more information on the above tools.

So far we are considering the following collaborations to make the Open Source Micro-Factory happen:

  1. Isaiah Saxon to lead the viral Kickstarter campaign. New friend and TED Fellow 2010, Perry Chen, founder of Kickstarter offered assistance. Luke Nosek, whom I also met at TED, is one of the founders of Paypal and has offered assistance in getting the word out.
  2. Dominic Muren, TED Fellow, and founder of Humblefactory, on concept development.
  3. Factor e Farm: continued prototyping of CNC oxy-hydrogen torch table, Tractor, Soil Pulverizer, and CEB Press until full product release by end of May, 2011.
  4. Collaboration with the open source CubeSpawn for the CNC circuit mill, and with RepRap for the 3D printer. We are considering the CubeSpawn platform for a combined CNC Circuit Mill/3D Printer. Peter Koeleman, True Fan, is currently prototyping RepRap Darwin and Mendel for OSE.
  5. Dan Granett – subject matter expert on precision CNC machining – on the OS Precision Multimachine with Surface Grinder Attachment.
  6. Karl Petersen on the first prototype of a stationary, modern steam engine
  7. True Fan from Indiana assisting on Oxyhydrogen Generator prototyping
  8. New TED Fellow friends from India to help design and prototype the Inverter, Welder, Induction Furnace, and Hydraulic Motors.
  9. Bill Haessly from Ohio collaboration working on Nickel Iron Batteries
  10. Sid Jordan, professional fabricator from Ohio collaboration, on the Ironworker Machine.
  11. Sweiger Shop, on prototyping the Pelletizer.
  12. Phil Jorgensen of Grid Beam, and Joachim Mitchell, Senior TED Fellow, on car design. This will test the feasibility of the interchangeable Power Cube as an engine for cars.
  13. Leo Dearden, collaborator from the UK, on design and prototyping of a scalable, high-power, open source stepper motor controller. Only low-power versions are currently open source.

If I didn’t list you and you should be added to the list above, email me at opensourceecology at gmail dot com. If you are surprised to find yourself in the list above, then I didn’t yet get a chance to talk to you, and I hope you are not offended.

The OS Microfactory is a BHAG, and we aim to complete these prototypes within 3 months of the Kickstarter campaign reaching its goal. This would cover 15 (steam engine includes steam generator and gasifier burner) of the pieces of the GVCS. With the CEB, tractor, and pulverizer, that would bring the total to 18. This would test our ability to scale the project to about 6 parallel projects at a time per month. This does not include our parallel efforts of resource development in the nonprofit sector, which we hope will bring in the complete sum of $2M within our 2 year mark. We are actually initiating and scaling the nonprofit effort at present, upon which we’ll report next. If the nonprofit sector works, we would like to collect a total of $4M – so we can guarantee the highest level of  documentation quality for the GVCS. The key to open source is and always will be the availability of documentation.


  1. Patrick Anderson

    If everyone can access the Means of Production,
    how will we keep wages above a bare minimum?

  2. Bob

    What about the MakerBot team?

  3. Tom

    Who would fund these projects on a worldwide scale? Individual governments?

    Tom Walker

  4. julia

    “Industry 2.0 – a scenario of distributive, local production via flexible fabrication, fueled by a global repository of open source design.”

    Great soundbite.

  5. Eric K.

    WHere is your Opensource robot worker ?

    An us firm is building it for 4000$, a german firm for 10 000$

    and there are state project ( eu , us ) for it

  6. Eric K.

    the micro factory ; should



  7. Evan

    Yeah! Jane Jacobs! Glad you appreciate her writings. “The Nature of Economies” should be on the OSE recommended reading list!!

  8. nick

    You may want to change “Scalable Stepper Motor Controller” to “Scalable Servo &/or Stepper Motor Controller”. Steppers are certainly capable, but are limited because they are open loop. I run hobby CNC machine with steppers, so I know how well they work. If you want precision you are far better off using servos. It will save you money in the long run.

  9. Abhijit

    @Patrick, why there be need for wage slavery system and human rentals in a P2P economy?

    We need to rethink concept of ‘working for a wage’ its a concept only 200 years old.

    The advent of micro factory worldwide can be used to abolish human rentals. Also lead to P2P currency/value exchange system.

    Eric K. also notes about need for programmable robots like Pi4 workerbot and the robot being developed by Heartland robotics, it would be great if there’s such an open source robot.

    1. Marcin

      @Abhijit – Refreshing. Well said regarding rethinking outdated concepts like ‘working for a wage.’ This concept is largely unquestioned, even by extraordinarily smart and progressive people. We are hoping that we can wake many people up to new possibilities through the fruits of our project.

  10. Carl

    @ Patrick Anderson

    If everyone can access the Means of Production,
    why would you need a wage in the first place? You can build anything you need instead of buying it.

  11. johnzilla

    Didn’t Dave Gingery already do this?

    Maybe not open source, but still…its a long, long way from “scrap metal” to “CNC Circuit Mill.”

    Sounds like fun, though.

  12. LucasG

    Funding $4M = 24 months x $10 x 16666.6 true fans.

    More fans, or richer, or sales, or some kind of organisation (gov or not), and this is not a matter of money.

    Serious coordinated work, over a long enough period, is still needed.

    And, of course, even a big-enough fraction of the BHAG a) is in itself a huge chunk of innovation and b) stays there waiting for the next push.

    It’s happening and, as they said with Linux, “are you comming or what?”. 🙂

  13. elifarley

    We have translated this post to Spanish and Portuguese. Are there volunteers to finish the Russian translation? The initial Russian translation can be found at the Google Translator Toolkit page. Please contact us if you can help with this or other translations.

  14. elifarley

    We can find more comments at (item posted by Andrei Shindyapin)

  15. Quillbreaker

    It’s an interesting idea. We spend so much time competing on feature sets trying to come up with the next big thing that we’ve abandoned all but the most trivial level of standardization.

    At some point, when working with known technologies, there should be some standard designs, plans, and methodologies. This is a good step towards that.

    I’ll be keeping an eye on this.

  16. Eric K.

    I can help on open source robotics, or summarize the project

    Do you have a page on the wiki ?

    i think we must keep in mind :

    small projects , with BIG IMPACT

    We cannot change the world ( even with the global village ) : we are here and now

    And most poverty is in fact in big cities … Do you want Millions people to go in small villages ? … … I think it is not possible to return in the past, and will cost million of life

    Relevant project on hydroponics : will have also big impacts

    The institute for simplified hydroponics has what we need ; a passive hydroponic that does not NEED ENERGY

    WindowFarm is good and wrong idea


    STEP TWO : AUTOMATIZED MICRO FOOD FARM ( the size a refrigerator – or two refrigerator )

    Within the next decade you will be able to grow all of your vegetables in a box barely larger than your refrigerator.

    Future food for cities

    This is the GOAL

    A 4 cubic meter micro farm for a family

    1. Marcin

      We are interested in an open source industrial robot, initially for tasks like welding, and evolving into other tasks like precision torching or even assembly. Email me to discuss your expertise and how you could contribute.

  17. Tom L

    Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs theory has been interpreted and represented as a pyramid. However, when I examined Maslow’s 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation” (the paper where he proposes this theory) I did not find the word pyramid in the paper (here is a link to an online version of the paper:

  18. Max Kennedy

    Interesting that the scalable electric generator powers just about everything but has no power source and the steam engine has inputs but nothing goes out of it. Would the steam engine not power the generator??

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  22. Dolph Cooke

    Fantastic stuff
    Have you got a machine that will help all the zombies who still believe that the governments are here to help the people and all the zombies who bitch about minimum wages and all the zombies who are wannabee capatilistic pigs but have failed.

    Sheesh wake up folks this project is for the good of all mankind its the illusive silver bullet.

    Remember this Zombies the Milk comes from a cow not the supermarket

    Flame me


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