Tuesday, December 20, 2011

DIY Machines With Minimal Environmental Impact

In many ways machines are the defining feature of our species and a new DIY movement illustrates the ways that machines can benefit humanity while minimizing their environmental impact. It ultimately depends on how the machine is made, what the machine does and who has access to it. It is increasingly obvious that we need to develop new machines that serve humanity without destroying the environment. Some of the most interesting machine manufacturing projects are being created in the "do it yourself" (DIY) movement.

Central to the DIY ethic is the empowerment of individuals and communities, encouraging the employment of alternative approaches when faced with bureaucratic or societal obstacles to achieving their objectives. DIY champions the average individual seeking knowledge and expertise for him/herself.

An increasing number of groups and individuals are sharing DIY instructional knowledge on how to make and operate machines. Consumer kits are once again gaining in popularity as is the work of groups like Practical Action, Appropedia, and Howtopedia, Lasersaur, DIYLILCNC, and Reprap. An organization known as Farm Hack is working to publish improvised solutions for young farmers.

Many of these companies promote plan sharing through the culture of open source hardware (OSHW) which consists of things like mechanical drawings, schematics, bill of materials, PCB layout data, HDL source code and integrated circuit layout data. In addition to the software that drives the hardware. These organizations follow the example of free and open-source software (FOSS) and some use pictograms to transcend language barriers.

Open Source Ecology (OSE) is an organization at the forefront of the open source movement. This group is of particular interest to environmentalists because OSE is founded on open source appropriate technology (OSAT) that provides special consideration to the environment. Specificallly refers to technologies that are designed with special consideration to the environmental, ethical, cultural, social, political, and economical aspects of the community it is intended for.

This group advocates moving away from radical specialization and developing machines that gets people directly involved with machines "to both democratize and demystify technology. "

Deeply embedded in OSE's DNA is the believe in DIY. They believe in self-sufficiency and the idea that an ordinary person can learn to do more than he or she thought was possible. For DIY movement to succeed, knowledge acquition is crucial.

OSE takes the idea of DIY one step further by working with engineers, farmers and supporters towards the building of an open source do it yourself civilization. The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS), is focused on developing a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

The OSE's goal is to lower the barriers of entry thereby making it easier for people to become farmers, builders and manufacturers. To date they have developed and published prototypes for 8 of the 50 Machines:

the tractor
drill press
soil pulverizer
torch table
hydraulic power unit
compressed earth brick press
walk-behind tractor
150-ton hole puncher

The OSE's financial support comes from 400 "true fans" who pay a small amount every month. They recently launched the Kickstarter campaign which will help to build a 5k sq. ft. fabrication training facility at OSE's rural Missouri headquarters.

In 2012, OSE is building the next 8 prototypes of the GVCS, focusing exclusively on fabrication tools. This "Open Source Microfactory" would make it possible to transform scrap metal into the products of advanced civilization. The microfactory will enable DIY production of a majority of those components to build GVCS machines.

The OSE's founder and director, Marcin Jakubowski is a Princeton graduate and earned a Phd in fusion energy. Jakubowski leads research, prototyping and testing of the machines at the microfactory.

OSE is publishing a detailed online library that includes design rationales, 3d CAD files, 2d fabrication drawings, circuit board design files, wiring diagrams, machine-readable CAM files, exploded parts diagrams, CAE analysis, step-by-step videos, control codes for automated devices, scaling calculations, the physics of why it works, and the performance and cost analysis vs. industry standards. They're also going to include a user manual that will specify operation procedures, safety, maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair.

The GVCS goal of creating an entirely new, integrated ecology of machines is an ambitious yet entirely laudable endeavor.

For more information click here to visit the OSE blog.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

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