Archive for LifeTrac

The LifeTrac Story

Here is a historical perspective on LifeTrac since September 2008 – the completion of LifeTrac Prototype I.

The LifeTrac Story from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

Right now we are using the LifeTrac to trench water lines for Factor e Farm. LifeTrac now has a total of about 200 hours of operation. The modular Quick Attach Wheels are working well. They have a total of 4000 pounds of pushing force with 4 wheel drive. The bent loader arms improve balance.


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LifeTrac Design Challenge

The LifeTrac open source Tractor is our weak link in the OSE Christmas Gift to the World for 2011. As we prepare to publish the Civilization Starter Kit DVD v0.01, we will include a Beta release of Prototype IV of LifeTrac, and Full Product Release of The Liberator open source CEB press, Soil Pulverizer, and Power Cube. We have gone trough 3 prototypes of LifeTrac at Factor e Farm, and we need to go to Prototype IV to address the outstanding wheel drive issues and loader balance corrections.

On the wheel drive, we are now working on quick release wheels –  where a cam mechanism and 1-2 bolts allow you to take off entire wheel assemblies on LifeTrac – in under 5 minutes. This is a great step forward on LifeTrac’s direction as the world’s first life-size Lego tractor. We have already shown quick interchange power units,  design-for-disasssembly (bolt-togeter) construction, interchangeability of motors, and quick-connect implements.

The concept design is a monolitic assembly with motor, bearings, and shaft – that can be taken right off the existing frame – by loosening a bolt and releasing a cam lock:

This simplifies the former miunting method. where 3 mounting plates were attached to individual frame members by using 6 bolts: Read the rest of this entry »

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Production Run Update

Greetings from Factor e Farm.

Life has been busy around here.

We’re in the middle of a production run, so we’re working pretty much round the clock. What’s cool is that as we’re building things, we’re finding all these things to improve about the process. There’s a lot of room to grow, and we’re pumping out a lot.

Here’s a few photos of the past week. Read the rest of this entry »

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Open Source Tractor Prototype III

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Going Digital: CAM Files for the Open Source Tractor

Last year, we didn’t use any automation in our fabrication procedures. For example, check out the LifeTrac II build. We’re moving to digital fabrication this year. Our work this year will be a test case for optimizing production – to determine whether even your grandma can build industrial-grade tractors in her garage. To do this, we need your help. Read on.

We are taking the open source tractor, now in Prototype II phase, as the first test case. To create Prototype III, the first task is to take the existing LifeTrac design – full CAD in Blender (18 inch shorter version) by Will – and export it into CAM tool path files for every component -  to be cut out on our computer controller (CNC) torch table. We are using LinuxCNC as the open source control software. As we go along, we are documenting the status and needs of the open source solution for providing a robust platform for digital fabrication of economically-significant products. Our first contribution to this is the torch table, which if we develop the open source stepper motor controller, will cost $800 in parts for a 4′x8′ working area, not counting the computer and plasma cutter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Construction Time

We have finally started construction after spending most of the year developing equipment. We finished the CEB press on Tuesday. The open source Tractor, CEB press, Power Cube, and Soil Pulverizer are now in action. The main obstacle of soil handling has been declared solved.

CEB Construction Time from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

We began building the columns for the modular construction system as described in a previous post.

We have until November 14 before we cut off our building experiments due to weather. We have an open invitation to anyone who wants to help. We will be out there until Nov. 14. By then, we aim to complete 2-4 modular sections, 16×16 feet each. We have the concrete pads already prepared. Whatever we don’t finish we will take up in spring starting April 1, 2011 – towards a complete workshop as in the former post.

We still need materials for the remailing 3 truss sections and 4 roof sections. We reported that the trusses total $250 per section ($750 total). Sheet metal roofing is $300 per section, for about 400 square feet including 3 foot overhangs ($1200 total). This covers over 1000 square feet of floor space, and the entire workshop will be three times this size – to allow comfortable production of 4 CEB presses or tractors at one time. The workshop is intended to help fund the revolution, under the assumption that we get our ducks in a row with marketing.

The interesting part is that we aim to demonstrate that it takes only 3 full days per 16×16 foot section with only 2 people working, including roof and columns, but no infill walls. We aim to get to this point as a result of the next 9 days of practice. We’re shaking down all the parts of the method, and so far the soil pulverizing workflow is solved. Our optimization includes installing the automatic controls for the CEB press by Sunday. Chip in:

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LifeTrac II Fabrication

For those of you who are interested in replicating LifeTrac II – the second prototype of OSE’s open source tractor – here is the fabrication documentation that we have so far. This is meant to be used by dedicated co-developer-builders, who can contribute to improving the design. We still have to build Prototype III, and we are planning on the Full Product Release of LifeTrac on May 1, 2011. This would be after we complete Prototype I of the CNC torch table , which we will use as part of our digital fabrication optimization to cut parts for the tractor – thereby saving many hours of time per build. Right now, we need a design for an open source stepper motor controller suitable for the CNC torch table, as an open source version of the controller does not yet exist. As far as other open source fabrication optimization that we are contributing to RepLab, the Open Source Fab Lab – we are now using our open source 150 ton hole puncher and heavy duty hydraulic drill press quite successfully as part of every-day operations. These are all contributions to a low-cost tooling infrastructure for a serious open source, flexible/digital fabrication workshop. We look forward to the day that we could build all of these from scratch – by starting with scrap metal and an induction furnace.

For the tractor, start with the 3D design drawing in Blender, which is not just a pretty 3D image – but an exact model of the build that can be used exactly as is. The fabrication procedure of the tractor is documented on the wiki.

Two years ago we proposed the quick attach plate lever mechanism for the Quick Attach plate on the tractor, which we never implemented on LifeTrac I for lack of time. Instead, we just used pins to lock an implement in place, as seen in the last link. Now we have the working lever, which is much quicker to engage, and is worth replicating as a useful, open source mechanism. See the fabrication procedure for the quick attach plate and latching lever:

Quick Attach Plate Fabrication from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

The design drawing is downloadable at our design repository:

There is one known bug at this time – we need to shorten the wheel base by about 12-18 inches – to make turning easier. Other than this, watch the tractor rumble:

LifeTrac II from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

We are finishing the Power Cube II and Soil Pulverizer II, and we’ll report on these next.

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LifeTrac Prototype II Completed

On September 14, we finished the loader arms for LifeTrac II – completing the second prototype of the open source tractor:

LifeTrac Prototype II Completed from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

We have not been able to post sooner because we have been away at the Steam Automobile Club of America Meeting. We will cover the exciting developments that emerged over the next 2 or 3 blog posts – since there is lots worth sharing.

In the meantime, we’re back to further preparations for building this season. We will fabricate a second Power Cube – an improved second prototype – so that LifeTrac II will have 35 horsepower of drive in total. At the same time, we are beginning on the second prototype of the soil pulverizer for CEB construction.

It is worth noting that the quick attach mechanism on the LifeTrac quick attach plate – which was shown briefly in the video above – has been completed successfully. It has been proposed first about 2 years ago, and we have finally built it. You can download the design for the quick attach plate here, as well as the LifeTrac and Power Cube drawings in Blender.

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Extreme Traction: Open Source Wheel Tracks

After the initial test drive two weeks ago – we have built and tested wheel tracks for LifeTrac Prototype II, the hydrauilically-driven, open source tractor. Now LifeTrac is able to handle extremely rough terrain – which would otherwise halt other wheeled vehicles, including LifeTrac I. LifeTrac II can go over sizable humps and holes in the ground, and riding LifeTrac II is a spectacular experience. Here we show the build, installation, and testing of the tracks on rough terrain:

Extreme Traction from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

The addition of tracks makes LifeTrac well-suited for navigating through many of the erosion ditches and rough terrain of Factor e Farm. This is a great relief on practical grounds, as we are now well under way to gaining control over our landscape. Also, there is clear indication that the full traction is a lead into building bulldozers for earthworks. Read the rest of this entry »

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MicroTrac Challenge

We have recently shown the initial test drive of LifeTrac Prototype II. The 3D model in Blender corresponds exactly to the machine built – the point being that the models in Blender are useful as actual design drawings from which others can replicate a build. The design may be scaled – meaning that the same components may be used on a machine of a different size. This implies that a MicroTrac may be based on the same design. See our previous work on MicroTrac – which is based on one driving wheel.

We are proposing MicroTrac Prototype II to be a small version of LifeTrac, as opposed to the one-wheel drive version. Stability and traction issues need to be resolved on the one-wheel design, so a good solution may be to do another simple box with wheels, like LifeTrac Prototype II. If we use the same or similar components, that means that parts will be interchangeable between the two machines – consistent with our principles of radical modularity.

This is our MicroTrac Challenge – for you to design the best, smallest implementation for MicroTrac Prototype II, built around the components of LifeTrac Prototype II. If you have no skill or experience in building a working tractor, this could be your start in your career as a design-builder of open source tractors. We have a design that works – and it may be modified easily – so our Blender drawing may constitute an Open Source Tractor Construction Set. Read the rest of this entry »

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