About this project
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.
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.
-=- Terence, Rachel and her furry monster puppy
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