David Li

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David Li is the founder of Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab. https://www.szoil.org/

Conversatin 2

  • 3D Printer as augmentation of mass production - not replacement of it
  • Complement, not core
  • Coop for an open source Low Speed Electric Vehicle - https://www.wsj.com/video/big-in-china-tiny-electric-cars/CF7E986A-7C70-4EE3-8F7B-441621F10C94.html
  • Easy and cheap to build - immediate community application
  • Solving the funding problem with a coop
  • Vehicle can be used as a collateral with a bank
  • Building can be financed by a loon
  • Transportation is a tool of production
  • Good foundation for a coop
  • Shared platform could also be a coop.
  • Extend service to car rental.
  • This helps to grow electric vehicles
  • It is cheaper to build electrics - but comanies don't want to do it.

3D Printer

  • There are new hardware prototyping companies sprouting
  • Very good interface to thinking about robotics
  • But also another part is thinking about gcode as a way to get into robotics
  • It's about being familiar with 3D movement of robotic arm
  • Opportunity to have more people think about a productive machine, not just 3D printinig
  • 3D printing building
  • Not 3D printer but as entering into robotics.
  • Seeing Universal Axis - a basis for a robotics platform.
  • Online course - very low part count - easy to put together. Also extensible to large things. From simple XYZ to large scale heavy fabrication
  • Foundation for FabLab machines
  • Conversation with Fab Foundation -
  • Talk to Sherry Lassiter - chairwoman of Fab Foundation
  • Lack of foundational design of basic components.
  • Good to think about putting together a kit - always a good open source business model. By itself and with
  • One of the interesting references for this is Little Bits - showcase of what they do with the Bits.
  • There is a need out there for a construction set. There is demand for easy ability to build axes.
  • Integrate this into the installation projects - interactive art projects for example.
  • Open source was always a vision
  • That was always the vision
  • Thinks it's a gap to execution
  • Make her aware of the availability.
  • Always good to have a good web presence - get to the place where more than building - you buy the kit.
  • Reframe as Robotics Construction Set as opposed to 3D Printer Construction Set

Conversation 1

  • Open source discussion - leveraging talent
  • Example - Ghana person - made a biodigester production ready.
  • Open source in china is driven not by philosophy, but by necesssity. Getting to know people is easy.
  • Strength of China is engineering and design -
  • Not traditional outsourcing - Taiwan, Korea, HK, Singapore - in 70s and 80s. This is more accessible in China.
  • Cutting out the middleman - if there is a sufficient local need - production follows.
  • A lot of manufacturers of Shenzhen are doing manufacturing in Africa. If global - easier in China.
  • Kenya as an example - customs tax is 10% in Kenya, vs import from China is 35% for fully assembled. If disassemble - then it's 10% import.
  • Chinese companies joint venture with Kenyan companies.
  • Work with Kenyan Chinese
  • McKenzie report - comprehensive report on the scale of private investment in Africa
  • Why doesn't Alex Socolof hire China to teach builds of tractors. $3k EV - shipping is $800. Import tax is 100% of vehicle. Tata is $3k. About $8k.
  • Different countries have different regulation. 10% import duties.
  • Africa is like China 30 years ago - government officials were accessible.
  • Opportunity to go electric.
  • For tractors it's not who has access to government officials - there are already rules to increase innovation in China.
  • Couple of partners in Ghana, industrial part. Money is in real estate.
  • Available manual labor - FAO - Smallholder Farm - target is smallholder farm.
  • 80% of all agriculture land is smallholder farms.
  • Red tape is there in China.
  • Ghana is quite entrepreneurial.
  • Ghana for heavy machinery - Accra is not heavy industry - Kemashu is heavy machinery. They are also the garage of West Africa. Used cars get fixed up there. Huge used car industry. Kemashi Hive - entrepreneurship hub. Big garage culture.
  • Lots of old cars end up there.
  • In USA, about 50% of all farmland is smallholder farm?
  • In USA, farmers are one of the highest suicide rates in the world. According to a recent article.
  • Trump country - the smallholder farm - less than 20 hectares
  • Bigger farmers are less susceptible to suicide -
  • Industrial farms in Europe will probably go out of business. Smallholder in Europe will do better.


  • You get more attention for putting a tractor on the blockchain rather than a tractor on a farm
  • Narrative for agriculture.
  • TroTro factory - Uber for tractors
  • Fab Lab - other kids will not be as brilliant as MIT. 'I can get MIT in here' is attractive.
  • One thing that prevents FabLab from being useful - is that people are not used to copying design. Because FabLab highlights the invention of someone. Something that is not economically significant.
  • Atelier Paisans is a cooperative. So that is a good thing. Engineering team responds to farmer, not farmer to engineer. Their business model is - core team of 7 engineers - design lower cost tools for farmers. 70% comes from material markup, and 30% from workshop.
  • FabLab should be a local copy machine. Which should have social impact right now.
  • FabLab module - most time how to run a machine. Bad manuals.
  • ShopBot resists full automation. They do things to stay relevant. For example proprietary interfaces.
  • Instead of Shopbot - we use a local one. Happy to open up what they have.
  • Open Source machines are poor at providing a supply chain. Not OSE!
  • Trademark - that is important.
  • China is production as a service.
  • What is the open source offer the supply chain? OSE offers license, logo, trademark. Can drive engineering around.
  • For me to look at potential of OSE - is a Certification Mark and a global community.
  • Available the 24th and 25.

Business Model

  • Look for Open Source Certification -
  • Certify compliant products.
  • "Centralization is ok for production" but knowledge should be open source.
  • Moving towards local and distributed
  • David proposes now is to take global production chains to change the local.
  • Companies go to Africa to sell first, then set up local production.
  • FabLab - irrelevant to poor village. Lecture with Neil has no value.


  • Smallholder farm - labor is a short supply
  • Chinese factories are becoming smaller. SHenzhen has 200k factories.
  • The farm village - knowledge is pretty open. Even in village scale - 5000 e-commerce shops. 2000 factories - 50,000 people village. Everyone does some part of supply chain.
  • Agrarian into industrial - in 1700s, noncompete was unknown. Very competitive. In initial stage, there were many companies. Or even Fairchild semiconductor - spawned 1000s of companies in Silicon Valley.
  • Cooperation - Fab Village. Invited projects to develop and test stuff. Feb 19.
  • 3rd Gen China GPS.
  • Spectrometer data for plant growth and chemical composition of earth.
  • Autonomous farming equipment.
  • 200 people.
  • Partner Lingde Big Data. Regarding spectrometer data. Engine manufacturer. Electric.
  • Quality control - it's not that it's missing - it's that you have to pay for it.


David is, like Bold by Diamandis, calling for crowd sourcing and crowdfunding. On top, he calls for open source - but it is not clear whether he supports OSHWA compliant, collaborative design, or more the flavor of Academic Open Source with high barriers to entry.


  • Article on DIY and professional build services in China. Also, white label and gongkai. Critique of Bunnies Huang. Questions - how to convert this to open source, not proprietary consortia of Gongkai? The key is open source design at the component level - not proprietary parts. This can enhance closed loop production cycles. Recycling of parts in Shenzhen is good, though. Concentrated open-ish network vs distributed manufacturing. 85% of electronics are made in China. Not distributed - [1]



Conversation 1 Links

Hi Marcin,

 It's great to talk to you. I am looking forward to meeting you on the 24th. My contact there is Professor Jack Qiu, also in school of communication. I was just at Platform Coop 2018 he hosted in CUHK. 


FAO did good work on small holder farmers. There are a lot more reports on their site. I strongly believe that open sourced autonomous small farming machines will be the game changer to level the playing fields.


US farmer suicide rate spiked.


Taobao village. The productions in China has been commoditized and Internet is being used as new channel for development. The decentralization of productions still continue in China.