Velocar – the Open Source Tilting Microcar

We are collaborating with Yann Lischetti – developer of an open source, tilting, electric Microcar. See his latest progress. The site is


OSE Lasersaur Build and Documentation Sprint Update

The OSE Lasersaur build of the open source, 100 Watt laser cutter is going well – see intro in last post. We have so far uploaded a few instructionals on Dozuki -

The instructionals were generated in real-time from picture and step uploads that I posted while building the machine at Nortd Labs.

Here is a sample -

and you can see the others such as OSE Lasersaur Frame by going to the Dozuki page. In particular – you can see the Outer Frame, Frame Table, and Gantry Frame. You can see all the pictures at Trovebox.

You can see some timelapses in our YouTube playlist, such as the Gantry, Table, and Frame:


There is much to be done on documentation. First, the Lasersaur project has extensive documentation already – including a dozen or so steps for each module – and about as many pictures for each. We are extending these step instructions to full step-by-step – and have about 200 steps and pictures in Dozuki and Trovebox already, which came from my Trovebox App and realtime build spreadsheet. There are a couple hundred steps left.

For the ones that exist – one can add CAD pictures to the instructions from the FreeCAD files, where the entire machine is broken into modules found in the IGES CAD model files here. From the step instructions, one can generate animated assembly animations – and ultimately – language agnostic instructionals (minimal or no words) – such as this example of the Brick Press frame that we did last year -


So who is up to generating these for the Lasersaur laser cutter? That would help a lot – but would require careful study of both the pictures and the CAD model of the Lasersaur in FreeCAD. To view the FreeCAD model, right click and select Blender view to rotate the image with the middle mouse button, and hit control-B to zoom in to a selected area. From these two,  one can lay out a careful step-by-step language-agnostic instructional, where we are doing these in Google Drawings for easy updates. See protocol here. We will need this for paralleling the builds of future Lasersaurs. My estimation is that with 12 people (because there are 12 modules), we can finish a build in 8 hrs. Stefan’s estimation is that it would take 3 days with a full team. My estimation is pending the availability of clear, language agnostic IKEA-style (but better) diagrams. That is not easy.

If you would like to join us in this design sprint – sign up for the Sprints here, and you will receive an invite to a Google Hangout. We are checking in today at noon, 4 PM, and 8 PM Austria time. We will be checking in for 1/2 hour at these times – and the rest of the time we’ll just have the Google Hangout up without talking. We need to finish the build by tomorrow night. If you show up, please help us make the dcumentation part of that happen. -MJ


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OSE Lasersaur Build + Documentation Sprint

I am now in Innsbruck, Austria, at Nortd Labs for OSE’s build of a Lasersaur, an open source, 100W laser cutter operated by wireless control from any browser. We will use the laser cutter for rapid prototyping at Factor e Farm, and we intend to develop the machine to higher power on the order of 1kW for metal cutting. My goal is to perfect the documentation of this already awesome open project – and I would like to see if the rate of Lasersaur replication will increase visibly as a result of this documentation effort. Thanks go to Stefan and Addie for hosting me at Nortd Labs.


(see OSE Lasersaur playlist on YouTube)

We are doing a Build + Documentation sprint – where we will produce an instructional in Dozuki at the same time that we do the build. This process builds on top of what we have demonstrated for the first time over a week ago in the first Design-Build-Documentation Sprint with the Ironworker Machine. This is intended to close the typical documentation blackhole that is common to open hardware projects. Documentation is difficult because it takes both time and insight into the subject matter. Our process – which allows documentation to go up in the cloud at the same time as the build itself – goes like this:

  • Time lapse is set up on Android phone, 10s interval, and I begin the build.
  • I upload pictures of every single step in realtime. Picture taken with Trovebox App on iPad (NOT with camera app, which requires a separate upload step). This is followed by voice record of step number and short description – uploaded  into Laser Cutter folder on Trovebox with the voice tag. Trovebox app on iPad allows for voice-recording of tag information, so this is quick. Another voice record is used for more detailed step instructions in a web browser using a Google spreadsheet on iPad. This is pretty quick, so allows realtime uploads. Wiki page named Lasersaur Steps is used to display the google spreadsheet. This means that any step notes show up immediately and automatically in the cloud, and that they are voice records so they are quick to input.
  • I also upload a few YouTube clips, which upload in the background. However a second smartphone would be useful here (one is used for timelapse).
  • A second person creates an instructional on Dozuki either Realtime or in batches if time zones are an issue (we need to plan on batching to address worldwide collaboration in general). Pictures are downloaded from Trovebox and inserted into Dozuki guides – one for each module. The URLs for Trovebox and Dozuki are not real. They are a reference only. For Trovebox, go to and click on ALBUMS then click on the Lasersaur album – where all step pictures are in the cloud directly from my upload. For Dozuki, go to, click on Laser Cutter, go to Modules, and go to whatever module is being documented – such as frame, gantry, laser tube, etc. This is the link to the laser cutter modules – where each one has a Development Page spreadsheet – which can be used to access every piece of information documented for each module.
  • A third person inserts text into Dozuki. The text from me – noting more detailed comments and instructions – is updated automatically via voice recording into the google spreadsheet, and is found at
The above produces the minimum Instructional product – but here’s how other collaborators can make it come alive:
  • We can insert a CAD EQUIVALENT SCREENSHOT CAPTURE from the existing FreeCAD (or Rhino) 3D CAD file found here - the FreeCAD and Rhino files are complete machines – whereas the IGES file is for modules only . Take existing FreeCAD file of Lasersaur, and take screenshots equivalent to the real build pictures that are being inserted in the Dozuki instructional. Upload into the Dozuki instructional right after the picture is uploaded.
  • CAD EXPLODER – a person takes the FreeCAD File and creates exploded part diagrams for the whole machine and for each of the modules. determines logical names with assistance from builders and designer. This facilitates naming convention within the Dozuki Instructional guide. Exploded part diagram image is added as an overview step at beginning of Guide or as needed. To do exploded part diagram, it may be simplest to copy a screenshot from CAD, and label within a google doc.
  • CAD EXPORTER – a person takes FreeCAD file and converts to Sketchup and STEP file formats for animator. The STEP file contains modules
  • GRAPHIC DESIGNER – takes the module, and creates an infographic for the module being developed in GIMP with an artistic title block, using Jean-Baptiste Standards of Style. Uses Background and Title Block template. Infographic is used in Dozuki for each module.
  • BLENDER  - an animator produces basic functional animations, such as lid opening, laser beam moving, sparks flying, things being cut, etc – for an eye candy explanation of how the thing works. This animation is exported and uploaded to marcinose YouTube channel.
  • BLOGGER – Blogger checks in during key points and reports on process and interviews participants, published at daily for each of the five days – this is innovation worth documenting carefully. various assets generated through build/doc sprint are showcased in blog to explain the method.
There are other steps that can be taken after each day:
  • OPENSHOT – a person takes the footage uploaded to OSE YouTube (marcinose channel), including overall time lapse, and creates video of the build, also documenting how a build/doc sprint is working. GIMP template file for Title page and credits. Open soundtrack library is used for sound.
  • OPENSHOT/MOZILLA POPCORN MAKER- once a guide is finished, it is played as a video – simply the successive steps in sequence are edited into a video using OpenShot. Mozilla Popcorn Maker is used to overlay step instructions in the video.
  • ASSEMBLY ANIMATOR – this person takes the finished instructional and then takes the CAD file – and disassembles it in the sequence corresponding to the reverse order of the instructional, while capturing the screenshots. See notes on this here.

You can join us at this hangout from Monday through Friday.




Seeking Microhouse Client in the Southern USA

We have built the first prototype of the Microhouse at Factor e Farm, and we would like to build more of these as we build out our infrastructure in 2014. We are increasing our capacity to host people, such as university student internships and Dedicated Project Visits (DPVs). It is easy to recruit DPVs for the summer, but we also think that we can keep the house full year round.

Since it will be winter here for the next 4 months, we will take up the next build at Factor e Farm around April 1. For now, we would like to continue building microhouses. We are interested in developing a workshop model for their construction, similar to the Permaculture Design Course model and natural building workshops, where workshop participants pay for a hands-on, educational experience. As such, we are seeking a host for our first Microhouse Build Workshop – for a tentative date of January 15, 2014. The host is the person at whose property the Microhouse will be built. If you want a copy of the Microhouse or a modified version, please get in touch with me at architecture at Here is the announcement – please circulate.

Announcing OSE’s First Microhouse Building Workshop – Call for a Host.

Are you interested in being part of the cutting-edge, open-source, sustainability movement?

Do you have a place to build your own home, but just aren’t sure exactly how to get started?

Are you interested in providing the opportunity for empowering others while at the same time building your own infrastructure?

Open Source Ecology is creating ways for people to empower themselves to create the things they need, like housing. We can help you begin manifesting your dreams while you help us teach others how to do the same.

    During our 7-day Microhouse 101 workshop, our Architectural Lead and Construction Manager will guide you and a team of workshop participants through the basic build of the Microhouse. At the workshop’s conclusion, most of the work on your Microhouse will be finished! We leave some of the finish work in your hands… but we can also encourage and help build the excitement and connections for some of the workshop participants to stay on-board with you to help complete the finish details. This is not an uncommon arrangement for natural building workshops.

    It is possible for a group of inexperienced builders to come together and create something beautiful. All that’s needed is a robust design and proper leadership, and our prototype process has proven wildly successful. We are taking the successful experience of Microhouse 1 build and structuring it as an educational workshop. We train and lead a group of workshop participants to build your Microhouse. You, as a host, provide camping and food for attendees, and pay for the materials and consumables for construction.
    Together, we can spread empowerment to others and build beautiful homes at the same time.

Click to view host requirements.

Contact [email protected] for more details.

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The First Design-Build-Documentation Sprint – and Open Source Ironworker Cuts 1″x8″ Steel

Last Saturday we accomplished a significant milestone in the GVCS development process. For the first time, we did a machine build at the same time that we uploaded media in realtime, and created an online instructional at the end of the build – realtime as well. And, we ended up with this machine for cutting metal slabs:

We did this with a build-documentation sprint on the Ironworker 3, where we disassembled a machine, uploaded pictures to Trovebox, and created an assembly instructional on Dozuki - where the instructional ended up online at the end of the same day. Further, we uploaded 7 clips of video footage, and next day, this video popped up via remote edit by Rob, our Documenation Manager:

There were four people involved throughout the whole process, two at Factor e Farm with the ironworker, and two remotely connected using Google Hangout:

  1. Dan Benamy was at Factor e Farm, doing the disassembly and calling out the parts and instruction for each step.
  2. Jean-Baptiste Vervaeck joined from Chile. He was listening for the parts and assembly instructions and putting them into steps in three Dozuki guides - click on the bottom and top frame sections, and the overall machine. He’d call out the step number (eg, “This is step 5″).
  3. Marcin Jakubowski was also at Factor e Farm, taking pictures and videos with an iPad, and emailing them in real time to Rob. He’d put the step number as the subject of the email.
  4. Rob  Kirk was taking those emails, uploading the pictures to Dozuki, cropping them, and inserting them into the guide. He was usually one step behind Jean because the process took some time, so the two of them didn’t conflict with each other. At the end, he uploaded all the pictures to Trovebox, which is our central repository for photos.
Cutting Metal Like Butter
The end point of this is an ironworker machine for cutting large stock metal sections – a corenerstone of any metal fabrication shop. We have succeed in cutting up to 1/2″x12″ and 1″x8″.

See other data on blade gap and its correction.

Modular Construction and Scalability

Further – we have proven that our Modular Components – tubing and plates plus bolts - like simplified but lifesize Lego Technik – are capable of producing semi-precision machines that withstand huge forces while retaining precision – such as 120 tons of force at the cutting edge of the ironworker blade. Note that the gap has to remain at about 7 thousandths of an inch for the cuts to be clean. The ironworker machine exerts 120 tons on the cutting edge of the cutting blade.

The results indicate that we will be able to build frames for CNC Torch and Router tables, and even heavy-duty precision gantry CNC mills. We are considering hydraulic power + Arduinos as the low cost controls for the latter.

Our results with the ironworker machine also indicate that we can scale our small scale, 54 hp tractors to bulldozers and other larger machines, while allowing a single person to build up these machines using a small overhead crane like was used above. Thus, the reality of the lifesize erector set – made of a minimum number of  components, and easy-to-handle, modular pieces – is coming to reality. Add metal melting and hot rolling to this, and we’re much closer than we think to a universal capacity for building modern civilization from abundant scrap metal. Read the rest of this entry »


Architecture Lead Joins the OSE Team

This is our overview and result timelapse for the Microhouse -

Our microhouse build came from dirt and open-source equipment such as the soil pulverizer, tractor:
and brick press to final product:

This was a major milestone of showing how an open source equipment toolchain produces housing.
Based on these results, we are hiring Chris Reinhart – the design builder of our first micro house prototype to join the core Open Source Ecology team as Architectural Product Lead and Construction Manager. He is our point of contact for all issues related to the built environment – and you can get in touch with him at Chris at opensourceecology dot org. Welcome to Chris – and many more Microhouse builds to come. But it gets more interesting. In Chris’s words:

The Microhouse 1.0 build has been a huge success. We have proved that the concept is sound – inexperienced builders can come together and use OSE machines and processes to quickly erect fully-functional, cost-sensitive, and beautiful architecture. All they need is the plan for how to do it and guidance from someone who has done it before.

Microhouse 1.0


Now that we have been through the prototype process and found it to be largely effective, we can easily harvest the low-hanging fruit and optimize the next build. The workflow of parallel processing prefab panels while brick walls are being stacked offers the opportunity to accomplish in a one-week time period what often takes two weeks or more during natural building workshops.

We have many exciting projects to get underway in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »


The MicroHouse Goes Up

The MicroHouse Goes Up

An idea for a small, energy-efficient, low-cost sustainable house


that could be built using OSE machines

became a carefully laid out plan, devised in modules.

With the help of energetic and dedicated volunteers,

2513 pressed-earth bricks and a mere six days later,

(as you can see for yourself—just watch those walls grow!)


the MicroHouse has become a success story. We need to finish the roof and the interior now. Here, we tackle the exterior plastering…

More to follow and much to finish, but right now, it’s hands to work! For a day-by-day account of the action—pictures, plans, schematics, and videos included—see Chris Reinhart’s log. Even as he has helped to nurture the MicroHouse project along from planning to execution, Chris has done a terrific job of documenting many, many details of interest to anyone taking a serious look at the MicroHouse.

As we say goodbye to Chris, promising to put the finishing touches on the MicroHouse, we’d like to extend our thanks and our enthusiastic applause! The same goes for all of our other MicroHouse volunteers—John Motloch, Seth Jenkins, Thomas Devick, Noah Devick, Rob Beddingfield, James Wise, Catherine Austin Fitts, Cody Harrison, Dan Benamy, and DPV Lucas Werner. Lucas topped off his work on the LifeTrac 6 by putting it to work pulverizing soil for the CEB Press, in order to make the bricks for the MicroHouse. The new CEB Press, for which we owe DPV James Slade much credit, has been key to the success of the MicroHouse build. It turns out excellent bricks, which can be lifted straight off the production line and put into place on a wall.

Stay tuned for more about the MicroHouse!

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The MicroHouse, the Tractor, and the Spark That Changes Everything

MicroHouse Build 

With the kickoff for the MicroHouse build only four days away (Sept. 28), preparations are in high gear. Chris Reinhart has put together materials lists for each module (see log), with diagrams. Gravel arrived on September 23, and Marcin Jakubowski has been hard at work compressing bricks, getting ahead in case of rain on Saturday.

Now you don’t see it, but soon you will! On Saturday, a swarm of volunteers will converge at the Factor e Farm to build the first MicroHouse.

We are happy to report that the MicroHouse will be profiled in Dr. George Elvin‘s upcoming book on post-petroleum design. By sharing its carefully documented open source design, we hope to enable people anywhere and everywhere to build economical, comfortable, energy-efficient housing!

The LifeTrac 6 Rolls into Action

The LifeTrac 6 build is complete. Product Lead Gary DeMercurio reports that the new tractor has tested well:

It needs some minor adjustments and some finishing touches…, but lift height is almost 10 feet; dump height looks really good from what we can tell; it turns very easily, brakes work, etc., etc., etc! Overall, it looks great, performs well (so far), looks MUCH more polished than LT5, has a smaller footprint overall, and seems to be a great success.

Thanks for the support these last two weeks — we couldn’t have done it without the team effort! Special thanks of course to Lucas Warner, Rob Kirk, and Emmett McGregor. A little less than 7 days total for less than 3 people is pretty darn good! Special thanks to Marcin for knocking out the Hydraulic schematic and the wheel mounts. Thanks to Audrey and Katie for the bolt replacement and the hydraulics.

James Wise works on the LifeTrac 6 as Emmett McGregor documents the process on film.

Ian Midgley Tells His Story

In a recent edition of the Financial Chronicle, filmmaker Ian Midgley tells the story of his quest for the visionary spark that can change passive observers into active worldchangers. Ian’s quest has culminated, of course, in the making of The Spark, a film featuring the work of Our School at Blair Grocery and Open Source Ecology. Don’t miss his firsthand account! (See Part I and Part II.)

Inspired? (Of course!) Want to get involved? Contact OSE’s Technical Community Manager, Audrey, for more information about volunteer opportunities:[email protected]


OSE Update for September 16

Open Source Ecology is busy on many fronts. The first is that our Compressed Earth Brick Microhouse build is almost here.

MicroHouse Build

The MicroHouse foundation is ready for the build September 28-Oct. 4! See  Chris Reinhart’s Log for details on design, progress, and plans for the build. Consider volunteering! Chris has all the details.

One LifeTrac Leads to Another

LifeTrac 5 tractor went to work at Our School at Blair Grocery in New Orleans, tearing up brush and moving dirt. This video, edited by remote editor Owen Smithyman using Latakoo, tells the story:

What we learned from building and testing the LifeTrac 5 has already been incorporated into the design for the LifeTrac 6, and, as of last Friday, the LifeTrac 6 build was underway.

DPV Lucas Warner, LifeTrac 6 product facilitator and long-time OSE supporter, and volunteer James Wise are analyzing the range of motion of the LifeTrac 6 loader arms.

During the 6-in-60 Campaign, a delay in the arrival of steel thwarted our tight production schedule. No more. Steel has been sourced and picked up. Jason Fuston, a local machinist, is helping us knock out some final steel cuts. To find a machinist located just 8 miles from FeF is a huge logistics improvement.


Last week we welcomed  new DPV Emmett McGregor. Emmett will work closely with Rob Kirk, OSE’s Documentation Manager, to capture photos and video of the LifeTrac 6 prototype build, the MicroHouse build, and the work that is done on the Ironworker and Backhoe in October.

Emmett McGregor, Documentation DPV

Meanwhile, the labor-intensive process of producing great documentation for the 50 machines of the Global Village Construction Set continues. Documentation Manager Rob Kirk is pleased about how the Latakoo platform enables remote collaboration. Remote Editor Owen Smithyman, he reports, “was able to take a bunch of raw cell phone video and turn it into a good looking story about the first tests of LifeTrac 5 working at Our School at Blair Grocery in New Orleans” (the video linked above).

At the heart of OSE’s documentation mission, OSE Dozuki site development is in full swing. You can see a wireframe for how our documentation is organized – with machines broken down into modules. Creating great documentation takes time and exacting effort, but it is a crucial tool for making the machines of the Global Village Construction Set a reality, as important as steel and CNC torch tables.

In addition, we’ve established a new Photo archive at Trovebox. We will be uploading our photos to the site and organizing them into Albums. Users can view the photos and even download full resolutions versions. We’re still in the early stages here but this will be a great resource for us and for friends of OSE.

An Invitation to Get Involved 

From Audrey Rampone, OSE’s Technical Community Manager, comes this challenge and ever-open invitation: Be the change … Volunteer with OSE! OSE is seeking volunteers to support design and prototyping efforts for LifeTrac 6, the MicroHouse, the Iron Worker and the Backhoe. Dedicated Project Visit and Work Day opportunities are available. Please contact Audrey for details at [email protected].

In addition, OSE is continuing to work with volunteers from around the world via Design Sprints.  Design Sprints allow you to volunteer with OSE from the comfort of your home anywhere in the world. To participate in Design Sprints, please complete the Tech Team Culturing Survey.



Microhouse Update

From Chris, our construction manager:

During the last few days of September and the first week of October we will be constructing a prototype house, using prototype machines, and using a prototype process: swarming construction. Numerous volunteers, with various skill levels, will be refining a method of parallel processing to construct modular components of a house that can be quickly assembled to create a beautiful, durable, and sustainable dwelling for a couple: the Microhouse.

The build processes will proceed from an instruction manual, currently being designed, that will open the doors of creating one’s own shelter to almost anyone.

Every step of the process will be rigorously documented. As components are built, the instruction manual will be marked up with times for each step and notes for how both the process and the manual can be improved. At the end of each work day, debriefing sessions will capture lessons learned to refine the process. As the next day’s work proceeds, while some volunteers are building in the field, others will be revising the manual to reflect the lessons learned the day before. In this way, the learning will be captured as it happens. At the end of the build week, the product we will deliver is far more than a house, it is a process that makes building more accessible to everyone.

We are preparing now. We framed some sample modular carpentry, got the brick press out and installed new controllers, got the brick press-soil pulverizer-Power  Cube out, and we are planning the workflow. You can follow Chris Reinhart’s work – he is our designer and construction manager. See our last post to see how the design is evolving.

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