Friday, May 13, 2011

Promoting the Global Village Construction Set - and decentralized manufacturing

Here's an email I wrote to the mechanical engineering faculty members at Columbia University, NYU Polytechnic, and Cooper Union, encouraging them to host a presentation by Marcin Jacubowski, director of Open Source Ecology, an amazing project in decentralized, do it yourself, manufacturing.  Much of the text is selected from OSE's website.  

I’m writing to introduce you to Open Source Ecology (OSE), an exciting technology and economic development project. Open Source Ecology is a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters creating the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS). The GVCS is a low-cost, high performance technological platform that allows for the easy, do-it-yourself fabrication of 50 different industrial machines needed to build a sustainable civilization, with modern comforts, from scratch. The GVCS lowers the barriers to entry into farming, building, and manufacturing, and can be seen as a life-size Lego-like set of modular tools that can create entire economies, whether in rural Missouri, where the project was founded, in urban redevelopment, or in the developing world.

We would like to arrange a September presentation in NYC from OSE Director Marcin Jakubowski. After earning a Ph.D. in fusion physics from the University of Wisconsin, Marcin founded OSE in 2003. As OSE’s lead fabricator, designer, blogger, and technical curator, he lives and works at OSE’s land-based facility, Factor e Farm in rural Missouri. Marcin has been selected as a TED 2011 Fellow. See his TED Talk on the Global Village Construction Set.

“Your project is amazing. Thrilling, actually...It's people like you who really give me hope for the future.” – Chris Anderson, TED Curator

OSE is looking for co-developers: engineers, designers, CAD, prototyping support for the 50 GVCS machines. See the Crash Course on OSE and get involved. You can join us on site for Dedicated Project Visits or for remote work.

The GVCS aims to be a complete appropriate technology platform for the 21st century. It will use local resources as raw materials, drastically reducing transportation costs. GVCS components can run on a variety of power sources: conventional gasoline, steam from locally produced biofuels, or solar power. Respecting real limits on natural resources, and minimizing carbon emissions, the GVCS will allow communities to maintain the basic amenities of industrial society in a modest, sustainable way that improves the environment with time.

America’s declining industrial capacity, financial stability, and employment rates are partly due to our dependence on the global production and financial system. Reducing this dependence will decentralize production and stimulate prosperity. As open source designs, GVCS blueprints will not be patented, but will be widely distributed to entrepreneurs to boost local economies. By catalyzing community-based, small scale industrial production, the GVCS will create new investment opportunities and blue collar jobs.

A presentation by Marcin this fall will be of interest not only to engineering and business students, the clean tech and sustainability communities, and many New Yorkers interested in innovation. Please let me know if you would like to arrange such an event. He will require a $1,000 honorarium. Contact me at 718.786.5300 x 27 or


Dan Miner
Volunteer, BeyondOilNYC


More about Open Source Ecology and the Global Village Construction Set

OSE Crash Course:

OSE Website:

OSE Wiki:


Media / Interviews:

Two minute GVCS video overview:

Tri-fold brochure:

The GVCS is an open source construction set for creating civilization with modern day comforts: food, fuel, energy, building materials, transportation, materials, and fabrication. In the technologies of the set, OSE aims to simplify, modularize, and make transparent the critical technologies used by humans, so they are extremely user-friendly; and allow people to substitute common resources for scarce ones; and substitute benign, closed-loop, small-scale, open source, industrial processes for toxic, centralized ones. OSE aims to complete working prototypes of all 50 GVCS technologies by 2012.

As of mid-2011, three GVCS prototypes are ready for full production: the Compressed Earth Block Press, the Torch Table, and the LifeTrac tractor.

OSE has already received orders for equipment. OSE’s budget is $50,000 in materials and project management for each piece of equipment. Expected soon are the power module, the soil pulverizer for the CEB press, and a steam engine. OSE is seeking to raise $2.4 million to develop prototypes for the full set.

The Compressed Earth Block Press is a machine that makes compressed earth blocks (CEBs). It takes earth and squeezes it very hard to make solid blocks which can be used for building. Compressed earth blocks have many advantages as a building material: by making the building materials from the ground on the site, they eliminate the need to cart them in from elsewhere. This cuts down the costs and environmental impact of transport. Compressed earth blocks are very strong and insulate well against both heat and sound. Best of all, there is no charge for using dirt; it is literally a dirt-cheap way of building! You can now buy a CEB Press machine from OSE, or a kit, or follow OSE’s instructions to build your own.

The Torch Table is a CNC (computer numerical control) machining device that uses a plasma torch to cut metal – and automate the fabrication of other components of the GVCS.


Power Cube III is a 55 HP gasoline powered module that can be attached to other components in the Set.

The LifeTrac III combines features of agricultural and construction tractors and a skid loader. It can be equipped with a backhoe, a winch, and a well drilling tool.

RepLab is a proposed digital fabrication workshop equipped with 15 computer-controlled tools that could melt metal and plastic, pour it into molds for any shape, print circuit boards, scan 3D shapes, to make any electronic or mechanical device. In go scrap metal, plastic and silicon - out come bicycles, saucepans, tractors, medical equipment, mobile phones, laptop computers, Internet nodes, solar turbines, sculptures, robots and other RepLabs, allowing the labs to multiply like rabbits. The tools would include the 3D printer, the 3D scanner, the CNC Torch Table,

RepRap is a self replicating rapid prototyper, a 3D printer capable of creating any shape you can think of in plastic.

The Multimachine is a multipurpose machining tool.

Other tools in the GVCS include:

MicroTrac; Bulldozer; CNC Mill, Drill, Lathe, Surface Grinder, Cold Cut Saw, Abrasive Saw, Metal Bandsaw; Ironworker Machine; RepTab (CNC Torch Table; CNC Router Table); 3D Scanner; CNC Circuit Mill; Robotic Arm; Laser Cutter; MIG Welder; Plasma Cutter; Induction Furnace; Metal Hot Rolling; Moldless Casting; Wire Extrusion; Forging; Modern Steam Engine; Gasifier Burner; Steam Generator; Solar Turbine; 50 kW Wind Turbine; Extraction of Aluminum from Clay; Pelletizer; Universal Seeder; Tiller; Spader; Microcombine; Universal Auger (String Trimmer, honey extractor, posthole digger, tree planting auger, slurry mixer, washing machine); Materials-moving Auger; Hay Cutter; Baler; Hay Rake; Loader; Backhoe; Chipper/Hammermill/Stump Grinder Trencher; Open Source Car; CEB Press; Dimensional Sawmill; Cement Mixer; Well-drilling Rig; Inverter; Electrical Motor/Generator; Hydraulic Motors and Cylinders

Key Features of GVCS components

• Open Source - we freely publish our 3D designs, schematics, instructional videos, budgets, and product manuals on our open source wiki, and we harness open collaboration with technical contributors.

• Low-Cost - The cost of making or buying our machines is on average 8 times cheaper than buying from an industrial manufacturer, including labor costs of $15/hour for a GVCS fabricator.

• Modular - Motors, parts, assemblies, and power units can interchange, where units can be grouped together to diversify the functionality that is achievable from a small set of units.

• User-Serviceable - Design-for-disassembly allows the user to take apart, maintain, and fix tools readily without the need to rely on expensive repairmen.

• DIY - The user gains control of designing, producing, and modifying the GVCS tool set.

• Closed Loop Manufacturing - Metal is an essential component of advanced civilization, and our platform allows for recycling metal into virgin feedstock for producing further GVCS technologies - thereby allowing for cradle-to-cradle manufacturing cycles.

• High Performance - Performance standards must match or exceed those of industrial counterparts for the GVCS to be viable.

• Flexible Fabrication - It has been demonstrated that the flexible use of generalized machinery in appropriate-scale production is a viable alternative to centralized production.

• Distributive Economics - We encourage the replication of enterprises that derive from the GVCS platform as a route to truly free enterprise - along the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy.

• Industrial Efficiency - In order to provide a viable choice for a resilient lifestyle, the GVCS platform matches or exceeds productivity standards of industrial counterparts.

Mechanical Infrastructure - life-size, Lego-like construction set for agricultural and utility equipment in which modularity is emphasized. The mechanical infrastructure is based on a chassis (tractor, microtractor, car, or bulldozer) with modular add-ons. Implements, motors, and power units can interchange, thereby maximizing the range of uses that can be composed from a small set of components. For example, the power unit can be interchanged readily between the tractor, bulldozer, or car.

• Agriculture - The food infrastructure for a resilient community (Open Source Agroecology) aims to demonstrate a best-practice system for feeding 100-200 people with a core team of 4 agricultural generalists, or Open Source Agroecologists.

Energy Infrastructure - includes Fuel, Motive Power, and Electricity. The energy infrastructure consists of solar turbine or by plant biomass.

Housing - The housing infrastructure consists of a number of multipurpose tools: CEB Press, Sawmill, Cement mixer, Modular Housing Units, Living Machines and others. We will produce professional architecture drawings for CEB and other natural building structures.

Transportation - includes an Open Source Microcar and utility Truck with implement attachability, all powered by Power Cubes.

Digital Fabrication - RepLab up to Hot Metal Processing and full-featured industrial robots.

Materials - Aluminum Extraction from Clay; Bioplastic Extruder including bioplastic synthesis from plants

1 comment:

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