Open Source Hardware Modularity Pattern Language

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Open Source Hardware includes:

  • Mechanical devices - heavy equipment, cars, and various implements of agriculture, construction, and production.
  • Electronics and Power Electronics - from Arduino to electrical motors to Induction Furnace power supplies. Combined with mechanical devices, this constitutes mechatronics.
  • Hydraulics and Pneumatics - power delivery systems more flexible than mechanical drive
  • Automation - adding sensors and feedback to mechatronics constitutes automation systems
  • Precision Drive - adding precision motion to automtion system makes devices such as CNC machines. Teh limit of metall
  • Metallurgy - metal melting, rolling, and casting constites the basis of the advanced civilization. The limit of metallurgy and CNC machines involves production of bearings and ball screws.
  • Materials - metallic ores feed metallurgy, and nonmetallic ores (such as sand) yield semiconductors - the basis of the information age. The limit of materials is biomass converted to all organic chemistry including plastic and rubber, rocks turned into metals, and crushed rocks turned into semiconductors.
  • Optics - lasers, mirrors
  • Structures - buildings, bridges, artificial ponds

Initial exploration of a pattern language on mechanical and electronic devices came from 2006 at Open Source Technology Pattern Language. We are returning to this in 2012 after practical experience with many of the modules, and are seeking collaboration with OSHWA, Alchematter, Christopher Alexander, and Milgo Bufkin on delivering a practical implementation of modularity pattern language to deliver a Civilization in a Box construction set for all hardware.



Examples of Modules

Examples of Machines Built From Modules

The pattern language icons produce a rough representation of more complex devices. See also more colorful examples at Pattern Language.


Product Ecology Pattern Language


While this pattern language appears obvious - a car for example has a power unit, transmission, wheels - the distinguishing features of ane effective set of modules are (effective as in flexibly produceable in a manner competitive with mass production while internalizing environmental regeneration and social justice):

  • Rapid access to replacement of modules - for example, typical replacement of a transmission module in a car takes hours. Here, a transmission module can be fitted in minutes.
  • Flexibility - modules are typically dedicated to specific machines in industry-standard pracice. Here, these are adaptable to many applications to convert one machine into another - such as a tractor to a bulldozer.
  • Universal rotor module - typically, rotors are dedicated devices, such as a circular sawmill or a hammermill or drill press. The rotor may be generalized. Concept: many implements are versions of a rotor, such as a cement mixer, tractor wheels, pelletizer, rototiller, spader, honey extractor, juicer, extruder, washing machine, string trimmer, hay cutter, hammermill, etc. Thus, separating rotor-based machines into a universal rotor and attachments for this rotor allows one to simplify design significantly. If the universal rotor motor can scale (in power, rpm, torque, angular accuracy) - a single universal rotor can be the backbone of a large number of implements. This drastically reduces the cost of access to a large set of these machines.


  • Direct drive whenever possible
  • Quick connect power units, stackable, scalable
  • Quick connect wheel units, stackable implements
  • Universal rotor - contains modular motor and implements; mounts on 4x4 tubing
  • Linear ways - applicable to well rig, sawmill, material-handling rollers, and non-precision carriage including replaceable work tables for precision equipment
  • Nonprecision drive can be stacked pn precision ways
  • Precision ways can be stacked cartesian and rotary wise for n-axis motion (6 axis base - 3 rotary, 3 linear)
  • Torque-up for extreme torque requirements, but not gear up for speed; use faster hydraulic motors instead
  • Roll steel from scrap and form tubing for going from scrap stream tool chain up to modern technology
  • Ultiimate goal: ball bearings and precision ball screws; Cat 40 CNC mills; rubber o-rings; mirrors; precision grinding infrastructure; 5 kW lasers; water jet cutters; 20' scale scale metal bending and rolling.
  • Induction furnace is heart of materials provision for metal rolling and alloying, and heat treating
  • Rotary implements: cover a wide range of power
  • Hydraulic power is primary universal power source
  • Modern external combustion engines are heart of power generation for fueling by solar and biomass power
  • Earth is the heart of construction
  • Aluminum smelting from clay is limit of material abundance
  • Solar thermal concentator is limit of power abundance
  • Glass and semiconductor smelting are limit of nonmetal chemistry
  • Plants are basis of all organic chemistry (food, fuel, fiber, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals)



Power Electronics

Precision Systems


Water Resources

Food and Agriculture

Built Environment

Energy Resources



Fabrication and Open Source Industry