|A Conceptual Render showing Pallets, the conveyor and work cells.|
Why is building a bunch of small cubical machines that work together a good idea?
If you can envision a future where things are made on demand, locally, from recycled materials, using local alternative energy sources,
then you already grasp the benefits of:
Eliminating millions of ton miles of freight from the cost of finished goods and eliminating the pollution it causes.
Cleaning up trash by recycling on-site, everywhere.
Eliminating the wasted power of centralized, long distance power transmission.
These issues are well explained in "The Story of Stuff" Video.
CubeSpawn is a fairly simple idea, but not one that is easy to implement:
"A collection of identical enclosures, each housing a manufacturing machine of some sort..
with a built in material handling system and fully automated operation, driven by digital templates for parts, tools and assemblies..."
The tagline I have been using with a few variations for a few years is:
"CubeSpawn is an Open Source, Affordable, Modular, FMS (Flexible Manufacturing System)
I'll attempt to break this down and expand the description a little.
We want a LOT of people to build these machines, since the larger the group of people using them, the more quickly they will improve both in their range of functions and their effectiveness.
Documenting everything is difficult and time consuming, So...
...we're taking lots of pictures to give proof of progress and
we are publishing the 3D models of all the core components as a way to pass the mechanical specifications to others
To make the first set of machines affordable, they are about the same size (In terms of build envelope) as the "Desktop/Benchtop" machines being released in the maker-hacker projects, plus we are using the open source controllers that have become popular to allow anyone with knowledge of the Arduino/Raspberry Pi/BeagleBone to setup and run these machines.(you can also use just about anything else if you so desire)
A great deal of thought has gone in to all the parts and components of CubeSpawn.
The enclosure has about 14 unique part numbers so that it can be made with relative ease, the goal is progressive recursion and bootstrapping systems.
So you COULD build your first few machines from scratch, (Like we are) then use those machines to build more over time as more capabilities are built into the system.
We hope to be able to make most of the parts FOR the machines ON the machines.
The machines also scale up by doubling so the smallest is 300mm (about 1 foot)
The size we are focusing on first is 600mm and a goal is to make most of the parts for the first 1.2 Meter machines on the 600's, allowing us to bootstrap to the next size.
FMS (Flexible Manufacturing System)
FMS's have been around since the mid 1960's but they have always been a capital intensive resource only big industry could afford. By building much smaller machines, leveraging Open Source control software and creating a system that can make its own parts to extend its own capabilities at its existing size, plus make parts for larger and smaller scale machines, most of the limitations of expensive industry machines are removed.
These are core concepts of the CubeSpawn project.
The benefit lies in getting many machine designers building machines that are capable of working together, this avoids one of the biggest expenses in industrial manufacturing: integration, bringing a collection of proprietary architectures together like they do in industry is complex and expensive, by building to a common pre-integrated standard, machines can work together "off-the-shelf"
By focusing on a few basic industry machines first (Milling Machine, Lathe, 3D Printer, Surface Grinder) a huge range of parts can be made with only 4 machines,
Leading to making all sorts of more specialized machines at the cost of materials and energy.