Community Supported Manufacturing – Careers in Global Village Engineering

Michel has asked me to provide a guest update on Open Source Ecology’s Factor e Farm developments. Here we will provide some details, which provide supporting information as to why Michel called us potentially the most important social experiment in the world. We also raise the discussion on right livelihood as a likely byproduct in a peer-based economy.

Our present focus is neocommercialization of an open source, high performance CEB press – The Liberator, which we designed, built, and are presently testing in the field.

In the field, we are beginning to build our living and production facilities – with the CEB Press powered by a high-performance, open source tractor, LifeTrac – which we also designed, built, and are testing it in the field. This tractor is also used in site preparation and earth preparation for the CEB press.

We have new ground to break within the greater context for these developments – a viable, open business model – which was discussed previously by Steve Bosserman with The Liberator as the case in point.

Friends, we are getting close to making that entire package a reality – a community-supported manufacturing (CSM) operation, utilizing open source digital fabrication in the process. We are talking about an economically significant product.

What is community-supported manufacturing?

For us, this means that the entire product development process, from design to prototype to actual fabrication facility – is supported by a community of developers. This includes design, funding, and actual building of the CEB press. Factor e Farm is the site of the fabrication facility pilot – and that’s where the present CEB construction phase itself comes in. The buyer gets a high quality product at the cost of production.

So far we have seen decent success in crowd-supported funding. We put up our funding page on our wiki, and have collected about $2200 (of a total of about $3000) for the month of October. We have a little over a week left to reach our goal – and we purchase materials and get work done as fast as funding and people-power permits. Our budget is about $3000 per month – which is dirt cheap for producing state-of-art infrastructure – because of our strategy to keep overhead costs to a minimum by investing heavily in the supporting infrastructure – namely land, off-grid power, capacity to build (CEB), low-maintenance cost open source tractor, etc. We’re essentially doing 1st world work on a third-world budget. Please support this public domain work at our funding site.

If you want to be a part of creating history, join our team. We are looking for people who can stay with our team for at least a one month period – and bring other pieces of the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) to life. Our goal is no less than building the world’s first replicable, post-industrial village – with a diversified and sufficient economy. We want to demonstrate that unprecedented quality of life, including cultural and scientific advancement – can occur on a small scale, and without geopolitical compromise. We also want to demonstrate that integrated economic activity as such is sufficient to produce a peer-based means of exchange founded on transparent production capacity – which can be utilized for non-local trade and would serve as, what is known today as, the money system. Email us to begin a discussion on project deployment.

The foundation of a global village is production. This is where our first product, the CEB machine, comes in – as the first example of efficient production that can compete in the marketplace with any other player. It is indeed predicted to be a factor 5 lower in cost than the ‘competition.’ Here are further details on our economic model.

We rely on voluntary contributions for the entire project.

We aim to be in production of the CEB press by March. As such, we give official notice here that we are looking for 4 dedicated collaborators to operate this enterprise as a 50% time commitment – by coming here – where rest of the time is taken up with further product research and development. If you would like to join our team – please contact us. We are looking for people with some level of design and machine shop skills, or people who can learn these skills quickly by immersion training with us.  The goal is to set up flexible fabrication capacity for on-demand production. The lifestyle is one of right livelihood, where participants are expected to live according to Factor e Farm’s social contract.

This being said – our goal is to build the production capacity of up to 4 CEB machines per week. We expect that each machine will take 25 hours of labor – once production is optimized.

The community-supported manufacturing model means that the producer and user benefit. The user gets a product at the cost of production – materials and labor. We are considering charging $100 per hour of optimal fabrication time. The user gets The Liberator for $4-5k, and we make $2-3k per machine. We are designing a 4 machine per week production operation. This has high earning potential.

The point is, we will transition from total dependence on crowds to production – as our means of support. We will put all money into developing our post-industrial village – hoping that earnings from productivity will result in rocket fuel towards additional product development of the GVCS.

In order to get to optimized production, here is an overview of the tasks to be accomplished:

  1. Demonstrate the building of CEB structures – October  and November
  2. Build a CNC torch table to cut metal for the CEB machine – December
  3. Test the torch table, build an improved CEB prototype (#2) – January
  4. Begin taking pre-orders after successful prototype replication is demonstrated
  5. Test prototype, optimize torch table design, and build a third prototype to test replicability – February
  6. Streamline production workflow and workshop design, and begin production – March
  7. Produce detailed documentation and training materials – April
  8. Host training workshops for users and fabricators beginning in May

Each phase requires about $3k in funding as the bare bones minimum, and more resource means that we can move faster by outsouring work or accepting additional on-site collaborators.

The interesting part is that we are developing an open business model. Our entire CEB fabrication package is open source – and we will produce high quality documentation and training materials in the coming months. This way, others can replicate the business.

What’s in it for you? If you have dreamt of right livelihood with no compromise – this may be the seed of such possibility. When open source GVCS products are developed – people will have the ability to replicate productive operations of all sorts – ecoenterprise, global villages, workshops in backyards, mainstream production operations, productive agroecology operations, etc. Our primary focus is the post-industrial village. We will host conferences in the future in which we gather stakeholders – with an explicit goal of creating another village as a tangible outcome. The conference consists of starting the building a real global village – as a means to replication.

Why? Because if enough of these villages are created, then a viable lifestyle option is created. That small percentage of 2-7% of the industrialized world – who is fed up with business-as-usual destruction – will have a full option to live as they want to. This is what Vinay Gupta calls the Unplugged Lifestyle, and what we have proposed in practice as the Buying Out at the Bottom package.

Because our model is open source, we don’t expect to make a killing – because we value sharing. We are forced to diversify. Realistically, I predict that we will have one or a few machines sold every month. Each machine earns us $3k, which is sufficient to run a bare-bones research budget for one month. This would be a good step towards funding a world-class open source product development facility.

The evolution of an integrated village economy of our interest is to develop not only the CEB Press – but tractors, solar energy systems, fabrication equipment, cars, electronics, foodstuffs, fuels, etc – the whole substance of a real economy. We think that with a community of about 12-24 people, we will be fundraising and generating the equivalent of at least $600k worth of value per year as the minimum requirement for world-class research. At such level of productivity, cultural advancement and replication become possible.

The reality check will come once the CEB machine is in production, with 4 machine per week production capacity. Space will not be wasted if we don’t have a lot of sales – because it will be a flexible facility for producing all types of products.

Replication follows once a number of products is developed. The ability to replicate global villages on demand requires training. The integrated skill set cannot be learned in college. Our plan is to offer: (1) a basic science and technology literacy primer, as applied to agroecology and flexible fabrication; (2) immersion training – 2 years at Factor e Farm – where you learn how to build a village infrastructure; (3) producer/fabricator training for any of the enterprises that we develop; (4) full Global Village Engineering degrees – created from scratch, and non-compliant with any known accreditation system, simply because they are too far ahead of their time.

In summary, join our team, or watch our updates on the blog, and help us make this happen by volunteering and donating. We are all volunteers here – meaning that we pursue a program out of our own will, instead of compensation for alienation.

Marcin Jakubowski
Open Source Ecology, founder

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