The development technique for developing open source products at Factor e Farm is called open engineering. This is an integrative research and development process that requires generalists rather than specialists. The reason is that ecological technology creation requires the synthesis of disconnected technological pieces into working wholes. The integration requires wholistic thinking, and specialists can be tapped for the details. The most important feature of open engineerins is integration.
The goal of for open engineering is to open-source various technologies, for an accompanying increase in transparency, usability, and modifiability, and correspondingly lower production and maintenance costs as the uses gains more ability to control the given technology. As such, the technological elite no longer control the technology - and therefore your life - as users gain DIY and personal fabrication access to technologies.
The process for opensourcing follows the Development Work Template - which is essentially the process of proposing an ecological design for a product, studying industry standards as a baseline, and moving onto design. Design includes full concept, conceptual drawing, technical drawing, and 3D modeling and engineering analysis.
The 3D drawing and engineering analysis may sound complicated, but a basic level of literacy in these can be learned, and is already available in the Home Team. This task should eventually be learned, but may initially have a learning curve beyond average developers.
The basic process involves tapping the internet as the first step. User groups, forums, networks, and others are good venues for information. We have seen that it is possible to find leading axpert in areas of interest quite readily. For example, we found the top designers in the field for the CEB press and CNC torch table, and have gotten meaningful review readily. Internet and phone conversations do the trick.
Because we are doing this work for the common good, people are generally eager to help out.
The key is to know what to look for. We start with OSE Specifications as the basic filter. Then we go through the Proposal 2008 for product selection, and Distillations for general path. Beyond that, it's the availability of individuals to visit and stay at Factor e Farm that gets the real work done. This path is creative and organic, and plans are shattered readily as real work begins and adapts to the reality of the site and project demands. It's a dynamic process that requires creative individuals who can troubleshoot problems.
An iconic language that can help people understand the technologies themselves is begun on the Pattern Language page.
Factor e Farm is our living collaboratory, where all the projects are integrated to build a village. Our goal is to build the habitat for 30 people by year end 2009. We are testing Solar cubicles at present.
It is more important to discuss the motivation behind the open engineering process rather than the actual process. This is because independent thinkers will have to adapt the Development Work Template totally to unique development situations. For example, not many fields from the template apply to the practive of propagating apple trees, which is a subset of the Open Source Agroecology component of the GVCS.
The motivation behind open engineering is to recapture production from the hands of specialists to the hands of the people, via generation of a design repository and files that can be used in Personal fabrication. This is a viable route to producing just about anything imaginable. This is possible today, but it is not yet being tapped. An Open Source Fab Lab infrastructure is missing, and this infrastructure is one of the first goals of the GVCS.
Here are the barriers to open engineering:
- Absence of Open Source Fab Lab equipment
- Integrated software package for collaboration including design and analysis software
- Development of databases for product design tracking and sharing. Sam Rose is working on the latter part, and we are testing and defining a software set of choice for the overall task.
- Refined social technology and organizational process for open product developmment. Wikipedia mastered this for encyclopedic content. We aim to master this for open product development.
Wikis, blogs, and forums are a useful start for collecting information. Drupal is good for project management, but has a high learning curve. Blender does good 3D rendering, but is hard to learn, and has limited CAD functionality. Good CAE application appear to be available in the open source. Good open source diagramming software exists in the form of CMapTools.
We are experimenting with the above packages, and will come up with a robust set, or will develop missing pieces, as the GVCS project evolves.