OSE Design Sprints Spur Innovation

6 in 60!

How can Open Source Ecology design and build 6 new machines from the Global Village Construction Set— a microtractor, bulldozer, truck, car, backhoe, and ironworker machine—in just 60 days? Our new video shows you how!

OSE’s Design Sprints

The key to rapid development is OSE’s approach to module-based, open source design – which brings people together to catalyze rapid, efficient collaborative development and production. It’s a design system that OSE is exploring and fine-tuning as it develops the specific machines of the Global Village Construction Set. The acceleration of development that this process aims to create will be as important as are the machines themselves.

The process itself is a collaborative work in progress.

It entails 5 stages, each of which is being developed and refined:

  1. Documentation – Good documentation is hard to do, but it is the foundation for successful design and the only medium through which widespread sharing is possible. OSE is doubling down on what it will take to get documentation right without overburdening and slowing the design process. The recent Documentation Jam (look for a post on the Doc Jam soon) identified the oManual format as an existing model worth adopting. (A tremendous beauty in the open source movement is that a thing done well doesn’t have to be invented all over again.)
  2. Conceptual Design – The general design concept is to break the technology into bite-sized modules and to define specifications clearly enough so that people can look meaningfully at different parts. OSE’s Design Sprints Dashboard is a reference library for the 6 in 60 campaign. In addition, for each machine in development, OSE sets up a dedicated dashboard. See, for example, the dashboard for the backhoe. The purpose of a machine-specific dashboard is to offer design collaborators  a one-stop source to all information related to the project, including precise design specifications. The ultimate goal is to equip newcomers to a project with everything they need to know to get right down to work in SketchUp at a Design Sprint. Getting to that point means having a granular definition of the requirements for beginning the SketchUp design. At this point, thirteen essential steps have been identified for the technical design process. All of these must be completed before 3D CAD design work can begin.

    OSE Development Process

    Click the image to open the full-sized diagram.

  3. 3D CAD Design – At Design Sprints, SketchUp is OSE’s 3D design tool of choice because it is simple and because everyone has access to it. A 12-minute tutorial video can help 3D designers new to the program get started with it. Because each machine is made of modules, some of which are interchangeable among machines, different designers at a Design Jam, armed with the technical design specifications, can work in parallel on different modules. The goal is to be able to design an entire machine, reliably – in just a single day. We aim to match our production efficiency of a single day with similar design efficiency.
  4. Rapid 3D and 2D Prototyping – OSE’s HydraFabber, now in the development, offers great promise as a portable tool that can enable rapid 2D and 3D validation of SketchUp designs. Designed to fit into a suitcase so that it can be deployed anywhere, the first iteration of the HydraFabber will be both a 3D printer and a 2D laser cutter. The 3D printer will create a 3D scale model to validate a machine’s functional design, and the 2D laser cutter will cut out the 2D scale-model machine parts in paper or cardstock, simulating the cuts that will later be made in metal on the CNC torch table when the real machine is built. Video documentation of the assembly of the 3D scale model can serve as guidance for the building the full-sized machine.
  5. Machine Build – The final step in the process, the build of the actual machine, can take place under the guidance of a few skilled managers, if documentation is good enough.

OSE Founder Marcin Jakubowki envisions how this process can change everything, breaking barriers for quality and speed that proprietary design and development imposes:

… if we define the development process sufficiently online, so that the amount of in-person explaining is reduced, then a single manager can manage a much larger team of people going straight into the SketchUp design. Say you’ve got 50 people in a room, and you have all the conceptual specifications for a machine well-defined and in front of you. Then, these 50 people could come up with the actual 3D Design – in as little as a day – and – next day – the machine build can be started. We’ve already shown that the build step is doable in one day for our automated brick press.

Now we are talking about 6 machines in 60 days. Well, I’d like to turn it around: 60 in 6. If we do that, we will have achieved an amazing and scalable method of development, bringing Extreme Manufacturing to life. The HydraFabber is a great step towards real-time prototyping and design. Our intent is showing a method where advanced development can happen in extremely rapid time frames – by the mere virtue of building on others’ knowledge.

OSE’s Documentation Manager Rob Kirk will be working to create video instructionals not only for machines but also for the design and development process itself. The videos will capture how to generate the conceptual design using this platform, how to generate the technical design, and how to set up parallel sessions to scale the different projects that are being worked on. Each module and each machine will have its separate development page. OSE’s intent is that other projects will be able to replicate the process – by using templates and embedding their own information in a simple way, such as on a wiki. The result is intended to be a replicable, scalable platform for open product development.

What’s the potential here? As Marcin envisions massive development sessions leveraging power of the crowd, he observes, “If you are inviting not just average people but the world’s leading experts, then you can be talking about an Apollo program for rapid development.”

Spotlight on an OSE Collaborator

OSE collaborators often bring deep experience to the table. Leo Dearden, founder of RepRapKit, is an example. Leo participated in OSE’s first design sprint and quickly came to play a key role in the development of the HydraFabber.

Leo explains his dedication to the open source hardware movement. “I’ve always liked making things, all through my life. I started as soon as I could stand, with my mum; we used to make things for fun.” Leo pursued studies in computer science at Cambridge, became a software engineer, and eventually found himself working an enviable job at Google. But the fit wasn’t right. Leo reflects:

Seven years ago I started to get really frustrated with the fact that software is totally intangible. There is something very unsatisfying about spending your every waking effort making something you can never see or touch.

In parallel with that, I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated with the proprietary model of software development where everything gets retained, kept secret, and then it has to be invented over and over again. So most tasks that people do in that world are very boring. It’s simply solving a minor variation of an old problem that has already been solved tens, hundred, thousands of times before when the solution that was used last time is not recyclable for engineering reasons or for, more often, organizational ones. It’s proprietary to some other organization. In fact, it’s always both, because the organizations change the engineering.

So as soon as I heard about open source software, I’ve wondered whether it would be possible to apply the same ideas to hardware. Fast forward to 3D printing, and the RepRap. As soon as I heard about it, I thought, I want to get involved in this…. When I realized that Google wasn’t for me, I realized that software engineering wasn’t for me, and I set up a workshop for RepRap Kit.

The work of Open Source Ecology dovetails with Leo’s interest in open source hardware design. Leo has been following OSE’s progress for years, and he reconnected more strongly on the HydraFabber. Following the first OSE Design Sprint, Leo has kickstarted forward motion on the HydraFabber.

A recent conversation focused on conceptual design produced several working goals. The first was to build upon the design of an existing 3D printer, either the RepRap Prusa i3 or the ORD Bot, and has now shifted to Lulzbot TAZ as the basis for development. As Marcin explains, the Lulzbot offers a “scalable, rigid and square 3 axis platform to build a 3D printer.” It is the simplicity of the design, he concludes, “which allows us definitely to achieve the printer and laser cutter function in a foldable fashion.”

According to Jeff Moe, Lulzbot CEO and longtime supporter as one of OSE’s True Fans, “LulzBot TAZ completely supports free/libre hardware and software. Along with the TAZ being a free/libre hardware design, it has been tested to work with 100% free/libre software.” According to Marcin,

OSE is choosing TAZ as its point of departure because it’s the highest quality, fully open source 3D printer out on the market today. Because it’s open source, we are to build right on top of it – and it also happens to be one of the most reliable consumer 3D printers in the world – so we are starting at the top. I don’t think we can go wrong with this approach.

The initial design specs for HydraFabber are thus taking shape:

  • High precision quick-change mount, to allow repeated head exchange without recalibration
  • Light duty laser cutter head – a laser diode – for use with paper or cardstock, and laser cutter bed to go with it
  • Improved portability (suitcase size)
  • Quick connect electronics for plug and play functionality, possibly with both heads driven by the same software, using different commands
  • Same controller runs laser diode and extruder head

The first version of the HydraFabber will be a smaller version of TAZ, with a foldable bed, and it will omit the CNC router head. The router head would require more stiffness on the frame – to handle the forces generated by its operation. During the conceptual design phase, Leo affirms, “We are in a space of exploration…. We need to take some sensible first steps…so that we learn as much as possible as quickly as possible.” The more minds the merrier.

An Invitation to Contribute

Leo is tied up with work on the other side of the Atlantic, in London, so OSE is seeking hands-on help from anyone who has built a 3D printer and who can come for a dedicated visit to Factor e Farm. We’d like to invite you for a Dedicated Project Visit (DPV). Contact OSE’s Technical Community Coordinator, Audrey Rampone (, to apply.

If you haven’t built an ORD Bot, there are still many, many ways for you to participate in the work of OSE. Do you know Sketchup? Do you have a 3D printer or a laser cutter? Can you do modeling, analysis, animations, or infographics? Can you do video? Are you a writer, scriptwriter, or technical writer? Can you wrangle html and css? Can you use your skills in video game design to create an interactive tutorial? If so, then we need you to participate in the work of Open Source Ecology. And we always vastly appreciate the financial and moral support of True Fans.

To get involved, fill out OSE’s Tech Team Culturing Survey. (The survey itself will give you additional ideas about the skills we are looking for.) You will receive information on future sprints that you can participate in remotely or in-person in designated locales.

If you have any questions, Audrey will be happy to answer them.

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