Open Source 150 Ton Hole Puncher

Our infrastructure for flexible fabrication along the lines of the Open Source Fab Lab, RepLab, is evolving nicely. We reported recently on Prototype I the heavy duty, open source, drill press, and here we are reporting on Prototype I deployment of our 150 ton hole puncher. Both of these are critical to fabrication ergonomics optimization for resilient communities in general, and, in particular – for Factor e Farm’s present fabrication of The Liberator open source CEB press and the LifeTrac open source tractor. For comparison, see earlier notes about our off-grid flex fab facility in a blog post from 2 years ago.

Here is a video on the hole puncher, with explanations.

Open Source Metal Hole Puncher – Prototype I from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

The implementation required a high level of attention to the  extreme heavy build and die positioning precision requirements – much more than anything we’ve done with the open source tractor, automated CEB press, or other devices. This is our first device that required at least some consideration of structural engineering – beyond brute-force overbuild. The local fab shop helped on the design. You can download the dxf design file at our design repository.

Regarding the hole puncher, the video showed the first hole punched – a humble 1/2″ hole in 1/4″ steel. The machine is designed for punching 1.5″ holes in 1″ thick steel, which we will test after procuring a larger die set. Future work involves adding a metal shear blade – a big scissor for trimming slabs of 1″ steel up to 12″ wide. In case you don’t know why this is relevant – a combination ironworker machine like this is the center of any flexible fabrication shop. This is especially relevant to lifetime, Design-for-Disassembly (DfD) products such as ours – which focus on holes and bolts instead of welding as the principal method of achieving lifetime DfD.

Imagine if we could also produce our own dimensional metal sections. Imagine down the road – with our induction furnace, we’ll roll our own steel from melted scrap and build new civilization – in a workshop of about 2000 square feet in size – at the cost of scrap steel plus pelletized biomass as fuel. Does that sound too simple?

Regarding the present cost of the hole puncher — our bill of materials for the hole puncher is:

  1. Hydraulic cylinder:  $285
  2. Main frame materials – $315
  3. Materials for dies and holders – $62
  4. Main puncher pin and guides materials – $170
  5. Welding gas and wire – $50

Total came out to $882 in materials, plus $200 for outsourced labor because we don’t yet have our open source lathe. The labor was metal cutting and lathing of the main pressing pin – which consisted of a 1.5″ threaded shaft drilled into the press pin. For comparison – comparable ironworker machines with metal shearing and other functions included cost about $18k. Once again, ours is another major stride at cost reduction.

If we had to list the 10 key tools of a flex fab workshop, these are: acetylene torch, MIG welder, drill press, lathe, CNC torch table, 3D printer, hole puncher/metal shear, plus induction furnace, hot metal working, CNC mill, and small mill/drill for making circuits. We’ve built everything to date here with a torch, welder, and drill, while outsourcing lathe work. This shows that a small tool set can do a lot, even without the more advanced components. Access to induction furnace/hot working would allow us to reinvent civilization from scrap steel, in ample supply from anthropogenic detritus.

Note that all these Top 10 should be open source for the world to become a better place. Distributive economics are founded upon open-sourcing the means of significant production – especially of machines that can make other machines.

To pump this topic further to a level of geopolitical consequences – our basic claim is that for post scarcity, resilient communities that exist on the smallest possible scale for purposes of internalizing responsibility – the main enabling feature is open source, flexible fabrication. The hippies running off into the woods didn’t get this point right, and various modern branches of technological utopians have not gotten the point about appropriate, modern technology – ie, advanced technology without design-for-failure bells and whistles.

There is a number of progresssive economic movements at play – which go by names such as relocalization, post-scarcity production, transition towns, transhumanists, resilient communities, Venus Project, sustainable development, or ‘ousting invading colonials’. Self-determination is a common thread, and we see that effective means of open source production are the foundation for self-determination.  Nobody that we know of has an explicit plan for what an appropriate technology base for the future may look like, though Community for Tomorrow proposes explicit, tangible solutions that are closest in nature to the ‘opensource the entire, critical infrastructure of society’ message that we propose.

Indeed, modern discussion of appropriate technology has degenerated to the applications of third world aid, or has disappeared altogether. The more integrated point of view on this would be to discuss closure of the industrial divide between the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ worlds – or not causing the problems of wealth disparity in the first place. Post-scarcity economics are a practical outcome of appropriate technology, as the waste cycle is replaced with lifetime design. We discussed this somewhat in our last blog post


  1. […] now using as part of our fabrication infrastructure. We just reported on Prototype I of the 150 ton hole puncher . We look forward to using these tools towards optimizing production runs of The Liberator. We also […]

  2. Evgeni Pandurski

    The message of this post is very powerful! Especially the notion that the “appropriate technology” movement have degraded and limited itself to the third world. The fact is that the “inappropriate technologies” are used mostly in the affluent countries, while the third world is paying the cost. This is a very hard realization for the conventional mindset, I thing. You probably should put more emphasis on this fact in your writings. In my vision, people fail to understand that a technology (a process) that pretends to be (and looks like it really is) very efficient, leads to a chain reaction of externalities: expensive materials, extensive energy use, expensive training, unhealthy labor ,monopolies, complexity, inefficiencies in trading, extensive exposure to credit, disintegration of local communities an so on and so forth. I had this thoughts long time ago, and its seems that it is impossible to convince someone that this problem is real (unless he/she is already convinced).

    On the other side, there are people perceiving the magnitude of the problem, but they mostly do not believe that there is a solution other than the primitivism. You guys are really brave to recognize the problem and to start solving it right now.

  3. tanium

    Folks, I admire your pace of progress!

    The hole puncher could probably also operate as a die cutter, with the proper dies.

  4. […] video shows fabrication of the string trimmer, with assistance from our recently open-sourced 150 ton hole puncher – in practical use for the first time. The trimer is then taken into the field – for […]

  5. […] source tractor. We got design review from the local fab shop, and they helped in the design of the 150 ton hole puncher – for stramlining fabrication, which we already tested in a fabrication task. We bought the […]

  6. Marcin

    To carry the discussion of the degeneration of the nonprofit sector – check out how our African brothers are laughing at what we’re trying to foist upon them:


    I found this link at – who seem to be speaking our language – so I’ll find out what they are about.

  7. […] marketing on our side – but we are well-positioned to produce The Liberator with our new 150 ton hole puncher and heavy-duty drill […]

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    […] we had a photo shoot on the 150 ton hole puncher – which is getting published in Make […]

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    […] 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 […]

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    […] Hole Puncher is designed for punching 1.5? holes in 1? thick steel. Future work involves adding a metal […]

  11. […] an open source metal hole puncher for the Openfarmtech […]

  12. […] Hello World, it’s Brianna again, with the final update on Ironworker Prototype II. You can see former work on Prototype I from 2 years ago. […]