Sharing the world's first low-cost, DIY, open-source Tractor, Compressed Earth Brick Press, Power Cube, and Soil Pulverizer. Read more
This project was successfully funded on November 19, 2011.
I finally have a chance to emerge from full construction duty – 17,000 bricks pressed and countdown in our last week of brick pressing with cold weather producing diminishing returns. With Floyd recruited as our newconstruction manager, the building program is now in good hands, and I can focus on documentation and delivery of the OSE Christmas Gift to the World.
On the construction front, the roofs will go on first on both the workshop and living units. We will then build CEB columns around temporary posts. Then we can fill walls and work free from rain – and upon external walls being laid – we will do finishing work free from the cold.
With this program, we will therefore still be able to deliver on double CEB walls with strawbale insulation, at least some CEB floors if we can press any bricks this week, and the roof will still be straw bale insulated. It will take us into January as we do finishing work on the workshop and living units, and we aim to move in early January. We hope that the overall results is a showcase.
The CEB Press/Pulverizer/Power Cube have been taken through intense field testing of hundreds of hours, and we aim to get the tractor back to full functionality by Christmas, so that we can use it in some of the last phases of construction. The tractor had issues, and we are currently resolving them. On the CEB press, we are working on asimplified controller board which does not require the Arduino breakout board of the last design. On other ancillary technologies from the Global Village Construction Set - we will have our Prototype 1 of the gasifier heater with heat exchanger designed by Dec. 21 (currently in design stage). We did initial testing on Prototype 1 of the loader-mounted cement mixer – with unsatisfactory results – so we will test the soil pulverizer in mixing lime/cement for DIY cinder blocks. We have the first prototype of the Dimensional Sawmill 75% complete.
The tractor is our weak point, but we are recovering from that with a plan. As we address the failing wheel coupler issue, we will use this as an opportunity to deliver major improvements:
- Build a quick attach wheel system to allow full interchangeability of integrated wheel units (wheel, motor, bearings, shaft, and associated structure) – to deliver on the promise of a complete, life-size Lego Set tractor. This means that it will be possible to take off and replace the wheel units in about 5 minutes, with a single bolt and a cam mechanism. This is akin to bicycle quick release – except on a 100x heavier duty scale. To do this, we are holding a LifeTrac Design Challenge – next blog post.
- Modify the loader. The straight loader arm design has issues with weight balance, so we will modify LifeTrac for a bent loader arm system to keep the weight closer to the body.
- Transition to the Bobcat quick attach standard for implements – to build upon industry standards where thousands of implements will be readily available to LifeTrac users.
All in all, the LifeTrac will be released not as a full product release, but as Prototype IV. We are not ready. We will still publish the full 3D CAD drawings and all documentation as promised, and let the community join in resolving outstanding issues.
With this said, here is a distinction regarding product release. Field testing so far has shown many details, which we will document fully in our Christmas package – when we will publish the Civilization Starter Kit DVD v0.01 with all results to date – which will allow you easy replication of the 4 machines – where the tractor is still in the experimental stage. This means you can build a tractor in the experimental stage – not a tractor with a tested field record. We will continue on obtaining this field record by continuing rigorous testing in logging operations in the winter, at the same time as we complete the Sawmill by early January. We will then continue field testing as we get our agricultural operations off the back burner next year – it is now time for full use of this equipment in providing a year-round diet to participants in the Factor e Farm experiment. I note further that the Lifetrac issue is tractable – our articulated Prototype I is still in operation, and without coupler issues as now.
We are still more excited than ever about the Build Naturally Workshop in our Kickstarter reward structure. With Floyd being a professional CEB builder, we look forward to open-sourcing low-cost building techniques that he has developed over the years, and at that time – showing robust results with cement mixer, trencher, sawmill, tractor, baler, backhoe, hay cutter, and possibly bulldozer– in addition to the tractor, pulverizer, Power Cubes, and CEB press – by July 2012.
How? We're scaling intensely. Already the workshop is being used to the LifeTrac IV modifications – and the roof is not even on until this weekend. Yes, resources are continuing, with $65k from Kauffman Foundation forthcoming within 2 weeks, along with another $43k donation from an anonymous donor by end of december. Together with Kickstarter, that puts us well over $100k of additional resources for December, and the prototypes will continue. There is no sign of the pace stopping, and in fact, my personal goal is to secure $5M by Jan. 1, 2012 through a few key meetings. This transition also means that we need to improve our development process to a much higher degree of rigor.
Who is our on site crew at present? 4 on site right now with me included, and 3 arriving next week.
We have James Slade here – of historic significance in that he already replicated the CEB press - already working on the tractor. Mike Apostol is here taking measurements and doing full 3D CAD of the 4 devices. Yoonseo Kang is here, and he will document the controller/hydrauilics integration for The Liberator, as he built the 4 automatic controllers. Then Ian Midgley and his crew will be returning to do more video documentation and instructionals, with machine disassemblies documented.
I am calling out for 2 more people to come to Factor e Farm prior to Dec. 24. We could benefit greatly from another video documentor for recording more of the construction process – as Ian focuses on the hardware documentation. See documenter requirements and duties.
I admit that the construction experience has been one of the greatest challenges in my life. From weather, cost overruns, delays, mistakes, people quitting, near mutiny, and things never going according to plan – that was some adventure. We still have far to go – but my soul is rested after Floyd came in on the scene – and I am leaving full implementation details and decisions to his seasoned judgment. That is a great load off my back – and I certainly learned the limits of volunteer labor. While that may have been adequate 5 years ago as we got our feet wet in the reality of survival on land – it takes much more than that where we are now in the world's spotlight. With that comes additional cost. While we are true to the DIY Ethic – we had to hire people for things that we simply couldn't do with volunteers – while paving the road and breaking cost barriers for others by documenting what works. We are spending a lot of money – to deliver low cost – as we gather the integrated knowledge set and avail the corresponding open source equipment base.
All together – we will still show you how to build state-of-art structures at $5/sq ft if you have the enabling equipment – even if we didn't reach that ourselves because of our many challenges. We will go through the detailed ergonomic and economic analysis – and with our documentation, you will have access to the techniques used. And next summer, we will show Phase II of construction – a small demo structure, where we now do it with a professional construction manager, without the pressure of getting a roof over our head before winter. That will be a more pleasant experience, and a fine reward to Kickstarter backers funding us at that level.
All in all, for full transparency on resource allocation from Kickstarter – we will be getting about $57k after Kickstarter and Amazon Payments take their cut. All of the 40k goal will go towards field testing, data collection, and full documentation of the tractor, brick press, pulverizer, and power unit. Given the LifeTrac ailments and construction dilemmas – we will be putting the additional funds towards assuring that LifeTrac will be taken as far as possible within the month left, and that the construction will be completed to a satisfactory level. Please let me know if you have any concerns regarding this decision.
It is challenging for me to manage all my duties while reporting with regular updates, so I would like to take this opportunity to extend the invitation for a full time, on-site documenter. This will facilitate regular reporting. I am looking for an enterprising partner, and not an employee – but a lifestyle investor and startup instigator - someone willing to dive into the deep end, very ambitious, self-motivated, full time, mature, physically able, funded via the work itself, and interested in a 1-2 year commitment as not only a reporter, but as a resource-generating developer and investor in the project at a deep level – one who considers the work not as a job – but as meaning, inspiration, and ever-changing adventure. The last sentence summarizes my position well – and it is becoming clear to me that this project will succeed only with more people of that nature on site.
For the video documenter, one of the rewards is footage of what has been called arguably the most important social experiment in the world. That will make an interesting story, and history.
Along the same lines, I'm set on finding 4 more people for long-term commitment by April 1, 2012: (1), a project instigator/cofounder; (2), farmer; (3), builder; and (4), fabricator. Hey, we're now close to accommodations for 12 full time people – Dream Team 12 at this point – of entrepreneurs developing Open Source Ecology.
What is Open Source Ecology, really?
As the project grows, I promise to define Open Source Ecology as part of the Civilization Starter Kit DVD v0.01 release. I say this because of recent discussions, especially within the OSE Europe community – regarding how to move forward. At this juncture in the project, as Founder, I need to gather my thoughts to express the full intent of Open Source Ecology – starting with the initial thoughts with which I coined the name back in 2003. This should help clarify much of the approach being taken – including the strategies and time-lines involved - and help the whole community move forward in unity, upon an unprecedented, big, hairy, audacious goal.
Thanks again for your support. More news soon. Email me at opensourceecology at gmail dot com for direct contact.