Product Selection Metric

From Open Source Ecology
Jump to: navigation, search

HintLightbulb.png Hint: 2020 Review - these concepts, with minor adjustments, still remain as relevant product selection criteria that can be applied to technology in general

(The following is taken from Section III of

(Update as of 5.19.09 - Since the above proposal was published at the beginning of 2008, there have been several changes in the product choice for reasons of impact and robustness. These are summarized in the Product Selection Changes as of the Early 2008 OSE Proposal))


The chosen product line is selected to be a robust set of tools of great economic significance. It is useful to motivate the value of the particular product line that is chosen for the economic base of the Global Village. To this end, we have created a prioritization metric for collaborative development of open source technology for localization and transformation. Product choice is prioritized simply by the product’s measured score.

The economic base for the facility is a small but robust and sufficient economic package of fundamental significance and wide markets. The products include major categories, and are essential to a Global Village infrastructure. Some of the key products are:

  1. Food – turnkey SolaRoof greenhouses, orchard, edible landscaping
  2. Power – solar turbine, fuel alcohol, compressed gas, power electronics
  3. Housing – compressed Earth Block (CEB) press, sawmill, extruder for glazing
  4. Transportation – hybrid car, hybrid electric tractor
  5. Flexible and digital fabrication
  6. Materials – steel, lumber, bioplastic, ceramic, aluminum from clay

Flexible and Digital Fabrication requires special attention. It is a facility, a Fab Lab, for fabricating: machined parts, rotors , heavy machinery , electronic devices , cast metal parts , and plastic extrusion products. These components and devices are essential to the other products in the Global Village economy, especially from the standpoint of Factor 10 cost reduction of infrastructure capitalization. The Fab Lab can also perform various grinding operations to sharpen blades, in particular those for chainsaws and sawmills. Basic workshop hand and power tools, though essential, are not specified here. The major items in the OSE Fab Lab are:

  1. CNC Multimachine – Mill, drill, lathe, metal forming, other grinding/cutting. This constitutes a robust machining environment that may be upgraded for open source computer numerical control by OS software, which is in development.
  2. XYZ-controlled torch and router table – can accommodate an acetylene torch, plasma cutter, router, and possibly CO2 laser cutter diodes
  3. Metal casting equipment – all kinds of cast parts from various metals
  4. Plastic extruder – extruded sheet for advanced glazing, and extruded plastic parts or tubing
  5. Electronics fabrication – oscilloscope, circuit etching, others – for all types of electronics from power control to wireless communications

This equipment base is capable of producing just about anything – electronics, electromechanical devices, structures, and so forth. The OS Fab Lab is crucial in that it enables the self-replication of all the 16 technologies.


We are interested in a metric for selecting products with a particular emphasis on localization - feasibility of production by means of small, local enterprise. We are interested in enterprise with one or few highly skilled, rapid-learning workers. We are interested in a scenario where these workers are capable of producing equivalent technological complexity of yesterday’s megacorporations. To this end, the metric for product selection is defined by the properties listed below.

The score should reflect the economic feasibility of Open Source Flexible Fabrication (OSFF) as a means of production. A high score indicates a feature that is conducive to OSFF. Thus, low entry barriers and good market access are conducive to this end. It should be noted, however, that such barriers - in the pre-Open Source Economy phase of human evolution – are high. It is precisely the goal of our work to reduce those barriers – by developing the enabling open source know-how and flexible fabrication capacity to attain Factor 10 reduction in cost.

The metric scores the 16 infrastructure products. Each product may be used in several applications – such as the boundary layer turbine being used in electrical power generation systems, cars, and other hybrid electromechanical devices. The scores reflect the sum of all the applications for a given product.


The metric is:

  1. Market size - This the value created in US dollars. This is measured by either: (1), the value of goods and services themselves, or (2), the value of goods and services displaced by the given product. This reflects the starting volume of production that may be substituted via localized, flexible production. If the market is large and distributed, then ubiquitous business opportunity exists from localization. Score: 3 points for a billion dollar market, 6 points for 10 billion, and 10 points for a 1 trillion dollar market and higher, and values in between. Note that most of the products chosen fall into the score of 10, because they are essential.
  2. Livelihood creation – Number of livelihoods worldwide that can be created if localization occurred. Score: 0 point for 1 new job per 100,000 people, 5 points for 1 in 1000, and 10 points for 1 or more in 100, and values between. See Appendix D: Metric Notes, for discussion on Livelihood Creation, to understand why all products manifest the highest score.
  3. Liberatory potential – This is the fraction of peoples’ time that may be freed due to elimination of particular costs of living, by using the specified product. This is due to features of: long product lifetime, items that allow production for self-sufficiency, and Factor 10 cost reduction of the product. Score: This is based on the 9-5 workday standard, which is really 8-6 for travel and recuperation inherent to benign crap jobs. This is essentially 10 hours per day, 5 days per week. Thus, 0 points corresponds to insignificant work time reduction, 5 points is 15 minutes reduction in work time, and 10 corresponds to 1/2 hour liberated per day. If all products contribute 1/2 hour, then they add up, essentially, to the elimination of the need to work, outside of minor expenses. Note that this leaves only the economy of leisure – ie, engagement in only voluntary activity beyond one’s need to make a living - as the only valid pursuit in life. This program assumes self-sufficiency in physical needs, and also in political needs (self-governance), security (believing in peace but sleeping with a gun under one’s pillow), education (augmented self-learning), and health (via diet, preventive health and fitness practice, and a quality lifestyle). Note also that such a program is unrealistic for many today, but may become feasible for many people in the future. The need to work to make a living will be insignificant if localization contributes significantly to healthful lifestyles.
  4. Population affected – Fraction of the world’s population, outside of indigenous cultures, that uses the product. Score: 0 points for every 1 person per 100,000 that uses the product, up to 10 points for every person on the planet using the product. This includes the industrialized and non-industrialized world.
  5. Localization potential – The measure of how much likelihood exists that production will be localized, as opposed to produced via global supply chains by large corporations. This is determined by a number of features:
    1. Fabrication infrastructure cost – Fabrication equipment and tooling required for producing the specified product. The lower the infrastructure cost, the higher the chance of small enterprise startup success. Score: 0 for >$10k capitalization cost, 1 for >$5k, and 2 for ≤$5k. This reflects the capitalization barrier.
    2. Labor value – Marketable value contained in labor of production, indicating earning potential in a local economy. This value also includes efficiency – if production takes too long, then the item in question becomes too expensive, and a product becomes unmarketable. Thus, only efficient production, such as utilization of manufacturing automation, has a high labor value. Score: 0 for unskilled labor, or <$10/hour; and 1 for >$10/hour, and 2, $50 and up per hour.
    3. Material costs – Product cost embodied in materials and wearable supplies involved in the production process. The lower the material costs, the higher is the potential for small enterprise to succeed by virtue of minimizing capital risks of supply chain management. Score: 0 for >$10k material costs, 1 for <$5k material costs, and 2 for <$1k material costs.
    4. Technological complexity – The number of distinct components or parts that are required for a product. The lower the complexity, the more durable and serviceable the product. Design optimization is based on reducing the complexity to the absolute minimum without sacrificing performance. Low complexity means that the enterprise may be learned readily by producers. Score: 0 for high complexity – requires a year or more of full time training to acquire the skill. 1 for medium complexity – requires months. 2 is for low complexity, such that only a 1-4 weeks are required to learn the enterprise. Note that all products chosen carry the highest score, by design. For example, we choose a Boundary Layer Turbine as the product of choice for power conversion – as opposed to solar cells- which are much more complex to manufacture from scratch in a one or few person operation. We are assuming the training of skilled workers, not people with two left hands.
    5. Sourcing localization – Local feedstocks reduce cost and enable a secure supply. This is critical for robust supply chain management strategies. At best, feedstocks are to be found on-site – such as solar energy, earth, wood, metal, etc. If they are found within a land-based facility, then they are essentially free. Score: 0 for remote feedstocks, 1 for mixed feedstocks, and 2 for predominantly local feedstocks. Note that in our product list, all products display the lowest score at present – simply because there are no local metal, semiconductor, or other materials producers – as these are procured via global supply chains. Note that this localization may exist in the future – as small scale metal extraction (aluminum from clay), semiconductor purification, biplastics production – may occur on the bioregional or local scale.
    6. Ecological design - integration of a particular production system with nature (as in a land-based Global Village) and other enterprises in the set of 16 technologies. This ecology is covered in its own section below, IV, Product Ecology. Score: 0 for limited integration, 1 for good integration, 2 for excellent integration.
    7. Design for Disassembly (DfD) & lifetime design – Durable products are favored for purposes of localization, in so far as they contain maximum value. If true cost accounting is considered, then lifetime products add value based on product lifetime increase. For example, a lifetime car may have the value equivalent to 5-10 disposable (planned obsolescence) cars. Score: 0 for planned or perceived obsolescence, 1 for significant DfD and lifetime features, and 2 for nearly complete DfD and lifetime design.
    8. Scalability – The facility with which larger (or smaller) products or yields may be produced, without major design changes, via modularity, and with proportional (as opposed to nonlinear) increase (or decrease) in price. If a flex fab device is highly scaleable by design, then it has a wider range of applicability, and can capture a wider market. Score: 0 for non-scaleability, as in the whole system must be redesigned; 1 for scaleability with nonlinear price increase; 2 for full scaleability and linear price increase.
    9. Cost of Waste – The fraction of competing product cost embodied in waste, such as intellectual property (IP) and competitive waste. IP spans product, process, and organizational design – which is deemed as waste here because it is generated redundantly by each market player, while costs are passed on to the consumer. The lack of access to product blueprints and design rationales is the most common reason why many producers hold a competitive advantage. This is also the reason for high entry barriers to new economic players – thus fostering centralization. Flexible fabrication is favored when a large fraction of competing product cost is embodied in waste- simply because there is a great business opportunity in reducing this waste. Open source products have the advantage of eliminating the entire cost of said waste, and land-based flexible fabrication facilities owned or co-funded by stakeholders may reduce costs even further. This score is measured qualitatively as: 0 for little or no waste in the mainstream product, 1 for about 25% of the price in waste, and 2 for ≥50% waste. In our list of products, the only ones that score low here are alcohol production and metal casting – for which IP is available in the form of widely available or purchased plans.
    10. Feedstock abundance – The worldwide distribution and supply of feedstocks involved in using particular products- such as abundance of clayey soil worldwide for compressed earth block production. The greater the distribution, the more wealth can be distributed to various communities. Score: 0 for centralized availability, 1 for bioregional availability, and 2 for local availability.

Note that the Product Selection Metric must be considered not for individual products, but for products within a product ecology. Cascading Factor 10 cost reduction occurs when the availability of one product decreases the cost of the next product. This is visible particularly with energy production – the solar turbine electric generator, running on free solar energy, yields drastic cost reduction of any other product where fuel costs are the primary cost. As another example: wheel electric motors - or low-speed, high-torque electric motors are one of the enabling features for low-cost electric cars, tractors, or electrically-driven sawmills. Specifics of cost reduction must be examined on a case-by-case basis.

Note also that our context is a land-based facility. This allows for provision of local, natural feedstocks, and it helps to reduce operating overhead.

The metric score is the total of the 5 main sections, with 10 point maximum for the first 4 sections and 20 for the fifth. The score goes up to 60 for the perfect product.

The metric addresses: (1), Jefferson’s formula for democracy by distribution of the means of production, (2), essential tenets of the localization movement, and (3), wide impact for economic transformation via decentralization. We challenge the reader to propose other products that should be on the list based on their score. We include a list of other ‘sustainable’ products that have attracted much human attention – but are beyond the scope of this discussion because of lower metric scores – in APPENDIX C.



Here we present a list of products and ratings, where the products considered are primarily components. These components have many uses, as the building blocks for many other products. It is instructive to consider such building blocks as the generating set for a much larger economic process. In particular, special attention should go to products 12-16, which constitute the Fab Lab. The Fab Lab is used to produce all the other technologies, including the Fab Lab itself. These technologies are described at, and here a summary is given:

  1. Boundary layer turbine – simpler and more efficient alternative to most external and internal combustion engines and turbines, such as gasoline and diesel engines, Stirling engines, and air engines. The only more efficient energy conversion devices are bladed turbines and fuel cells.
  2. Solar concentrators – alternative heat collector to various types of heat generators, such as petrochemical fuel combustion, nuclear power, and geothermal sources
  3. Babington and other fluid burners – alternative heat source to solar energy, internal combustion engines, or nuclear power
  4. Flash steam generators – basis of steam power
  5. Wheel motors - low-speed, high-torque electric motors
  6. Electric generators – for generating the highest grade of usable energy: electricity
  7. Fuel alcohol production systems – proven biofuel of choice for temperate climates
  8. Compressed wood gas – proven technology; cooking fuel; usable in cars if compressed
  9. Compressed Earth Block (CEB) press – high performance building material
  10. Sawmill – production of dimensional lumber
  11. Aluminum from clay – production of aluminum from subsoil clays

Means of fabrication:

  1. CNC Multimachine – mill, drill, lathe, metal forming, other grinding/cutting
  2. XYZ-controlled torch and router table – can accommodate an acetylene torch, plasma cutter, router, and possibly CO2 laser cutter diodes
  3. Metal casting equipment – various metal parts
  4. Plastic extruder – plastic glazing and other applications
  5. Electronics fabrication – oscilloscope, multimeter, circuit fabrication; specific power electronics products include battery chargers, inverters, converters, transformers, solar charge controllers, PWM DC motor controllers, multipole motor controllers

It is useful to consider Figure 1, which lists Hardware for Living components, and the Resulting Capacities, or uses, for those components – to show the broad economic range of application for the given components.

Proposal fig1.jpg

Figure 1. The 16 technologies and their resulting capacities are shown to describe the range of productivity that a small set of 16 elements can produce. All but Aluminum from Clay are proven localization technologies.


Here we present the ratings for the 16 technologies. Figure 2 shows products 1-16 on top, with product key at the bottom of the chart, and the respective categories on the left:

Psm table1.jpg Figure 2. Localization metric scores for prioritized technologies, on a scale of 0 to 60.

All scores are 54 or higher of 60. Note that a perfect score does not occur in Fig. 2 because material sourcing is generally global. Perfect scores may obtain if key industries, such as aluminum production or semiconductor purification, may be performed on a local basis.

To clarify the meaning of the metric as in the table, it is instructive to compare the metric score for a product from the mainstream economy. A good example is cars produced by the modern automobile industry. This is a clear example of a large industry, but its score according to the metric is low. The score for the type of centralized production looks like this:

Psm table2.jpg

The total score is 27 of 60. In this example, we observe that the auto industry scores well on market size and population affected, but relatively poorly elsewhere. Its existing livelihood creation is one job per 500 people. Its liberatory potential is nil, as car costs are a liability designed into a planned obsolescence pattern. Fabrication costs involve multi-billion dollar facilities, labor is largely automated, complexity is very high, sourcing is global, eco-design features small or nonexistent, scaleability is largely nonexistent, fuel feedstocks are a strategic resource, and the industry is largely proprietary. The material costs are approximately $5k per car, which is comparable to the open source variant. All in all, the localization metric score is 27, compared to the 50+ range of the 16 items in Fig. 1. Note that a car is not one of the technologies in Fig. 1, but it is a derivative of several of these technologies.

Merge icon.png It has been suggested that the text on [[::Product_Selection_Metric_for_Other_Products|Product_Selection_Metric_for_Other_Products]] be merged into (added to) this page or section. (Discuss)