Funded! This project was successfully funded on April 29, 2012.

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$10/meter, ~$1.00 per joint, 100% off-the-shelf fasteners. By eliminating specialty screws, you get the best bang for the buck!

2012 APR 29 - UPDATE:

With funding about to close, I will no longer be able to edit the project page here.  So, please visit us online at the following locations for the latest updates:

http://blog.openbeamusa.com - for the latest news and updates.
http://www.OpenBeamUSA.com - OpenBeam's webstore and knowledge base.
http://www.TamLabs.com - OpenBeam's parent company.  "Lessons learned" from Kickstarter, as well as my writeup on this project's Kickstarter experience, will eventually be blogged here.

Introduction:

T-Slot extruded aluminum framing systems have been in use throughout the manufacturing and automation industries for machine building, prototyping and robotics applications for the past 30 years.  Unfortunately, all the vendors in this industry utilize a razor and blade business model; while the extrusions are priced low, they require the use of speciality nuts and plates, which can be priced as high as $3.00 per nut and $10.00 per joining plate.

Example of a 60mm Film Maker's rig, built from OpenBeam components

I designed OpenBeam to be a low cost construction system aimed at the hobby and Maker market.  OpenBeam is based around the metric system and 3mm building blocks; to keep the cost of the system low, I designed it to use standard M3 nuts and bolts, available at any good hardware store.  No special fasteners are required.  

OpenBeam Extrusion and Joining Plates

OpenBeam connector plates are injection molded out of a metal-replacement engineering resin to bring the recurring costs down. To take advantage of economies of scale and reduce the upfront tooling costs, only a "T" and "L" shaped plate are offered.  The beam comes in 1 meter lengths and may be cut with a 32 TPI hacksaw, a reciprocating saw, or a miter saw with a non ferrous metal carbide blade.  I can also cut the extrusions to length for you on a computer controlled saw at time of purchase.

Off-the-shelf M3 nuts are used - no speciality T-Nuts that costs 30-70 cents each!

The most commonly used materials on laser cutters in the US are 3mm baltic birch and 3mm acrylic.  All joining plates are therefore designed to match this thickness to encourage users to cut their own custom plates for special applications.  The T-slot can be used to capture a 3mm thick panel; 5 sheets of material may be stacked together to match the width of the extrusion, which measures 15mm x 15mm.

5 sheets of 3mm Baltic Birch stacked to create a custom shoulder brace

The slots in OpenBeam are perfectly sized to capture a sheet of 3mm (1/8") acrylic.  Airtight enclosures and electronics mounts can be easily built this way.

There is a hole down the center of the extrusion length that can be tapped for a M3 screw to allow the extrusions to terminate in a butt joint against another member.  The small groves in the center of the T-Slot serves two purposes; to guide a drill in drilling through the extrusion, and to capture a standard thin gauge circuit board.  Thick gauge circuit boards can be captured via the keyhole slot.

Keyhole slot doing a double-duty as a PCB mount rail.

Four speciality accessories will be available at launch as well:  A universal shaft clamp covering 6-16 mm, a NEMA-17 stepper motor mount, a 608 ball bearing mount and a standard RC servo mount.  These parts are designed specifically with 3D printer, home brew CNC machine, camera rig and robotics applications in mind.  Below are a few examples:

An OpenBeam trebuchet.  Everybody loves a trebuchet, right?

A NEMA17 motor mount.  OpenBeam's T-Slot design allows the motor to be repositioned easily to adjust belt tension, etc.

For more annotated pictures of OpenBeam construction possibilities, please visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/openbeam

--

I worked very hard to keep costs low while delivering a quality product. As a design engineer, it matters to me that my products are built in an ethical manner.  I'm very proud to say that OpenBeam extrusions will be 100% built in the USA.  The plastic pieces will be injection molded at an American owned company that specializes in high end engineering resins and aerospace molding.  

Additionally, all OpenBeam components are RoHS compliant.  The extrusions are 100% recyclable and the joining plates are 100% reusable.

The technical risks on this project are very low.  I've been doing engineering and engineering mentoring for a decade now and you are welcome to check my references on LinkedIn.  All the designs are complete, and I have official quotes for all the components from vendors that I've worked with personally and trust.  But I can't launch OpenBeam without your help.  The money raised will be used to purchase the production tooling and to pay for the first run of parts that will go into fulfilling the rewards and loading the supply chain.

It is my intention to build OpenBeam into a viable prototyping platform for all Makers. To do this, I need to set up distribution channels with fulfillment partners so that the material is always available when project needs arises.  You will be able to buy not just the starter kits offered here, but also individual extrusion pieces, fastener kits, joining plates and accessory plates from OpenBeam's webstore.  You will also be able to buy, for a small additional cut fee, custom length extrusions, cut to length on a computer controlled saw.  

OpenBeam will be an open source hardware project.  Upon completion of project funding, all design documentation, drawings, CAD models, etc, will be released under Creative Commons Attribution license.

Please consider supporting this project.  

Thank you,

-=- Terence, Rachel and her furry monster puppy

FAQ

  • Yes. Here's the a la carte pricing for additional materials. Simply adjust your pledge accordingly, and send me a note with what you need. I'll note it next to your pledge, and make sure that the order gets picked correctly.

    OpenBeam 1515, 1 meter, plain: $8.00
    OpenBeam 1515, 1 meter, black anodized: $16.00

    OpenBeam 1515, 550mm, plain: $4.40
    OpenBeam 1515, 550mm, black anodized: $8.80

    T-bracket, 8 pack: $6.00
    L-bracket, 8 pack: $6.00

    100 piece hardware kit (100 pieces M3 nuts, 100 pieces button socket head cap screws): $10.00

    Standard Servo Mounting Plate: $12.00 EA
    NEMA17 Stepper Motor Mount Plate: $12.00 EA

    Universal Shaft Clamp Kit: $2.50 EA
    (2 required normally for clamping both ends of the shaft)

    Feet adapter, 4 pack: $3.00
    608 to NEMA17 Adapter: $3.20 each

    Last updated:
  • Absolutely!

    I have now added 2 more pledges: An "International Edition" Basic Plus and Basic Elite kits. These kits features extrusion that had been cut down to 550 mm in length, to allow the kits to go by USPS International First Class Parcel. By doing so, shipping costs are more manageable.

    The camera rig kit, machine / robot builder kit, and the hackerspace kits are too heavy to qualify for first class parcel shipping. These have to go by USPS Priority International Parcel. The cost adder for these is as follows:

    Camera Rig / Motion Slider Kits:
    Hawaii and Alaska: $15.00
    Canada and Mexico: $22.00
    Europe: $40.00
    Asia and Australia: $40.00

    Robot and Machine Builder Kit:
    Hawaii and Alaska: $25.00
    Canada and Mexico: $32.00
    Europe: $52.00
    Asia / Australia: $55.00

    Hacker Space Kit:
    Hawaii & Alaska: $50.00
    Canada & Mexico: $98.00
    Europe: $130.00
    Australia / Asia: $170.00

    Please note that you are responsible for any import duty, taxes, etc.

    Last updated:
  • First of all, I applaud the MakerBeam guys for forging the path and inspiring me to work on OpenBeam. However, like every proud parent who thinks their kid is the cutest kid out there, I think OpenBeam is superior to MakerBeam in the following ways:

    A) Major design flaw in Makerbeam: The special screws needed for Makerbeam are not constrained from rotating when the nuts are tightened. They are only available in certain lengths. Take a look at the following blog post from Makerbeam's European distributor with regards to the problems:

    http://blog.makerbeam.eu/…

    Making a custom fastener is already an engineering compromise. It is always going to be more expensive than what you can buy off the shelf, and this cost has to be passed to the end user. To me, it is unacceptable to have to make a custom fastener, *AND* still have to resort to a half-baked solution, such as filing flats onto them by hand, or jamming a lock washer onto EVERY screw, to get it to tighten.

    B) Stronger, bigger beam: OpenBeam measures 15mm x 15mm in cross section area. This is 50% bigger in X and Y compared to Makerbeam, which results in a stronger beam against deflection. This is useful when you're building 3D Printers and CNC mills. The bigger profile also allows the beam to be end-tapped, which allows butt joints without fasteners. See the video for an example.

    C) Accessories: At launch there will be more accessories available. Accessories will include NEMA17 motor mount, shaft clamps for linear bearings, servo mounts, and 608 ball bearing mounts.

    D) Distribution: The only way to buy MakerBeam in the US is to buy the kit, with pre-cut lengths, through Sparkfun. This distribution model is akin to forcing every body needing to buy drywall screws at Home Depot to also buy 2x4s, precut to certain lengths, AND hurricane braces. It just isn't viable for people working on projects!

    OpenBeam already has distribution partnerships set up. You can buy individual brackets, and you can buy the beams in 1 meter length and in custom cut lengths. There will also be hackerspaces stocking this material for a local brick-and-mortar store front.

    Last updated:
  • MicroRAX (http://www.MicroRAX.com) manufactures a very nice T-slot extrusion system as well. Their profile is meant for lighter duty applications at 1/3 the weight and 2/3 the cross sectional area.

    OpenBeam is much stiffer than MicroRAX, which is crucial for robotic, 3D Printer, CNC machines, and camera rigs applications. The contact patch for the fastener is also a lot bigger which results in a stronger joint.

    The rising tide raises all ships, and there is much to gain by working together. I have been in contact with some of the folks at MicroRAX - and we intend on collaborating between the two groups to try to get as many of the accessories to be cross-platform compatible.

    Last updated:
  • Sorry for the oversight here - I can't edit the blurb, now that there's a pledge against it. The Camera Rig builder kit contains:

    2x 1 meter OpenBeam 1515 Extrusion, anodized black
    16 T Plates
    16 L Plates
    4 Packs of Shaft Clamp Kit (for clamping the 15mm rail used to build the framework)
    2 hardware kits
    1 2mm Allen Driver
    2x meter of 15mm carbon steel tubing for the rails for $30.00 more.

    Includes shipping and handling for the lower 48 states, add $20.00 for Canada / Mexico, $40 for Europe and $35 for Australia.

    Last updated:
  • Yes, you can, but there will be a cost adder. Unfortunately, anodizing, especially for black, more than double the cost of the extrusion. We are currently looking at retailing the black anodized beams at $20.00 per 1 meter length, or 2 cents per millimeter.

    The cost adder to swap out black extrusion bars for the kits are as follows:

    Basic - $10.00
    Basic Plus - $16.00
    Basic Elite - $32.00
    Motion Tracker Kit: $32.00
    Robot & Machine Kit: $64.00
    Hackerspace Kits: $320.00

    Last updated:
  • No. There are multiple reasons:

    1) The extrusion die is proprietary to the extrusion press; so for plastic extrusions, I'd have to incur the NRE in building a new tool

    2) Any plastic that is strong enough to be used in this sort of application will cost more than the aluminum used in the extrusion. The material for the joining plates, for example, is US$10.00 per kilogram. This is almost 5 times more than the current aluminum prices on the London Metal Exchange.

    3) A 15mm x 15mm plastic "T-slot" system exists already: It's called FischerTechnik. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fischertechnik

    (And it's not cheap either).

    Last updated:
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    Every little bit helps! For $5, you'll have access to project updates, including discussions about the design decisions that drove the product to its final form, and behind-the-scenes look at how the product is actually built at the different suppliers. All information presented in the updates will be made available within 90 days after the project completion and after rewards have shipped, under Creative Commons license.

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    Every little bit helps! For $20, you'll have access to project updates, including discussions about the design decisions that drove the product to its final form, and behind-the-scenes look at how the product is actually built at the different suppliers. You will also be credited as a sponsor on OpenBeam's website. All information presented in the updates will be made available within 90 days after the project completion and after rewards have shipped, under Creative Commons license.

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    OpenBeam Basic Kit! Project updates, plus: 1 meter of OpenBeam 1515 Extrusion, 2 "T" Plates, 4 "L" Plates, 1 pack of fasteners (100 pieces), 1 2mm Allen key. Material is enough to build an iPad stand or a really cool picture frame. Includes S&H within the lower 48 States

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    OpenBeam Basic Plus Kit! Project updates, plus: 2 meter of OpenBeam 1515 Extrusion, 8 "T" Plates, 8 "L" Plates, 1 pack of fasteners, 1 2mm hex-drive screw driver. Includes S&H within the lower 48 States. Normally a $80.00 value.

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    Basic Plus - International Edition International Edition kits have extrusions that are cut down to 550mm in length to conform to the requirements for international first class parcel from the US. Kit contains: 4 x 550mm poeces of extrusion, 8 T plates, 8 L plates, 100 fasteners, allen key. Includes global shipping by US Postal Service first class international parcel. Allow for 2 weeks for delivery.

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    OpenBeam Basic Elite Kit! 4 meter of OpenBeam 1515 Extrusion, 8 "T" Plates, 16 "L" Plates, 2 pack of fasteners (100 pieces), 1 2mm Allen key. Material is enough to build a desktop trebuchet. Includes S&H within the lower 48 States. Normally a $125.00 value.

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    Camera Rig Builder Kit! Includes all parts shown to build the 60mm camera rig shown in the video. Follow focus and photography accessories not included. Note that these extrusions will be anodized black for anti-reflective properties. 15mm rods are NOT included! Add $30.00 for 2 1 meter section of carbon steel 15mm tubing. Includes S&H within the lower 48 States. Normally a $175.00 value.

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    Basic Elite - International Edition International Edition kits have extrusions that are cut down to 550mm in length to conform to the requirements for international first class parcel from the US. Kit contains: 8 x 550mm poeces of extrusion, 8 T plates, 16 L plates, 200 fasteners, allen key. Includes global shipping by US Postal Service first class international parcel. Allow for 2 weeks for delivery.

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    Trebuchet kit! Includes everything you need to build the trebuchet in the CAD rendering as shown. Comes with all hardware parts, speciality parts, counterweight, and laser cut target set, assembly diagrams with online video instructions.

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    Limited Edition OpenBeam Basic Elite Kit! Same as OpenBeam Basic Elite kit above, but includes individually serial numbered and signed engineering prints for all OpenBeam components, printed on art paper, and a titanium allen key, forged out of 6Al4V aircraft titanium alloy. Includes S&H within the lower 48 States.

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    The Roboticist / Machine Builder Kit! 8 meters of extrusion, 40 L joints, 40 T joints, 32 shaft holders, 3 NEMA17 brackets, 3 servo brackets, 300 fasteners, and a 2mm allen screw driver. Material is enough to build the framework for a RapRep 3D Printer, small scale CNC mill, or 3D scanner. Includes S&H within the lower 48 States. Normally a $375.00 value.

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    The Hackerspace / Research Lab Kit 40 meters of extrusion, 120 L joints, 120 T joints, 80 shaft holders, 10 servo brackets, 10 NEMA 17 brackets, 1000 fasteners, 10 allen keys, 2 allen drivers. Good for a hack night. Remember, everything is reusable... Includes S&H within the lower 48 States. Normally a $1300.00 value.

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    The Grandmaster Kit. 80 meters of extrusion, 240 L joints, 240 T Joints, 160 shaft holders, 20 servo brackets, 20 NEMA 17 brackets, 2000 fasteners, 20 allen keys, 4 allen drivers. Plus, bonus titanium allen key, signed engineering prints. Includes S&H within lower 48 states, add $250 for international shipping by USPS Priority International Parcel

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