In order to build with the Compressed Earth Block press, and in order to produce these machines at Factor e, we need a certain level of infrastructure. Here is what we are doing:
Say you want to fabricate CEB presses. Start with a facility: CEB walls and living roof, where 1000 square feet may do for 1-machine per day production with 4 people. Give the facility some juice: 2 kW peak solar cells from Ersol will do to get you entirely off-grid. If you are off-grid, add a GNB 20 kWhr forklift battery pack for storage – it lasts one full day at average wasteful American household usage. Put in a large, 10 kW inverter if you want to run heavy duty electric equipment. Drop in a 3 kW Lister engine generator for backup, if the sun does not shine for long periods. You can run a good welder, like the Millermatic 200 MIG welder, with the inverter – but only from the beefy battery storage which can run up to 2 of these welders at one time. If you want to pop out one CEB per day, you might want to add in a CNC acetylene torch table to slice up your working metal like butter, at the tap of a button from your desktop computer and open source LinuxCNC software. A LifeTrac open source tractor will help you power the PTO generator if you need 20 kW more industrial power. It will also do the soil preparation: soil digging with the loader, and mixing with a rototiller. The latter will be open source production as well. LifeTrac is designed to run 6 Liberator 1 CEB machines at a time. We will have two Liberators by the time we start building here.
How robust is the technology package above? Let’s go through an analysis of expected maintenance costs. First, the building will be made of CEBs. We built the PTO generator, so it is essentially good for life. The Lister, off-shelf, is supposed to last 100 years. The batteries are heavy duty forklift flooded lead acid, 25 year lifetime. The welder was chosen as a proven, long-lasting one – Sweiger Shop told me that the Millermatic 200s just keep running without problems for many years – they use 8 of them – while the newer Millermatics are already having problems. The CNC torch table is designed to last, and we decided to build the open source, articulated tractor because we want reliability and we are tired of $2k/year maintenance costs on the other tractors. That in itself makes a good story – and I’ll blog about this more later.
Essentially, the package is sound from maintenance cost perspectives of low overhead – perhaps $500/year costs for the entire facility! That includes utilities and all equipment. This is prime neosubsistence in action. To me, it is absolutely exciting – this is the only off-grid industrial facility that I know of that is being built on this planet. Please let me know if you know of others.
The solar cells and inverter are the weak links. If they break, we just end up replacing them. We won’t touch OS solar cell production yet – that will be forthcoming in about 1-2 years. I will, however, touch on OS inverters. That’s something we can do now, as we had 2 of them break already. If anyone in the audience can help or provide leads on designing a scalable, stackable power inverter – scalable in, say, 1 kW units – let us know. Is this by any chance where field-programmable gate arrays are capable of providing the circuit logic? The high-power inverter is a good candidate for open-sourcing, as the commercial 10kW equivalent is about US$10k, and we should be able to reduce the cost by Factor 10.
Got to go. I’m going to build me a tractor frame today.
Yes, really. The frame is xyz-bolt together construction (one of the icons in the Open Source Technology Pattern Language) – truly the modular and lifetime Design for Disassembly (DfD). We are using sizeable 4x4x1/4 inch square steel tube and 3/4″ bolts. Easy to build, easy to take apart. This type of design, of course, is something you will never learn about in college. They say it’s too pedestrian. I call it Design for Freedom (DfF) – and douse myself with sweet thoughts of a liberated world beyond scarcity. It’s one piece of the puzzle, but surely a great leap towards the Global Village Construction Set.
Did you ever wonder what would happen if things lasted a lifetime? Mix this question with the concept that your cost of living is the cost of the technology that you use: houses, cars, etc.
Things don’t last a lifetime, and they are lasting shorter and shorter with planned obsolescence: read this article about open source as a cure for this ill. Our digital camera just broke, so we have to shell out more hard-earned nuggets to get a new one. Please let us know – of recommendations for a good, low-cost brand; if you know of any open source digital camera projects, or if you have a camera for sale. I won’t be taking any pictures today.