RepLab Tools

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RepLab Tools

Proposed collaboration

  • Hackerspaces. contact[at]nycresistor[dot]com
  • Fab Labs
  • Economic development organizations (1st and 3rd world)
  • Other libre and open source, universal constructor programs
  • Universities, including MIT and its Center for Bits and Atoms
  • Agroblogger has asked the most important question affecting humanity today. See here.

Fabulous Friends Smari, Kyrah, Olle, Erik, Edmund, Henri, and James X. Jones:

  1. Who else should we recruit for the organizational team?
  2. Who and how to contact others to find more collaborators?
  3. How much time could you devote to this?
  4. Can you serve on the organizational team?
  5. Can you set up a website for this?
  6. How can we enlist communicators, PR people?
  7. Besides the crowds, who can we tap for funding?
  8. Etc, etc.


Developers could make a lot of money with a RepLab. As such, they are motivated to fund and support development.

Therefore, I propose that we motivate funding by access to the most amazing hackerspace in the world. I propose we build that at 43 cents per square foot at Factor e Farm, or anywhere else, and populate it with tools.

People can redeem their investment into the project with the redemption of their contribution at $50 per day usage of the entire RepLab. I would propose a generous redemption rate, such as 5, 10-, or lifetime membership to the RepLab based on their level of contribution. The $50 figure is just a first guess. Access to full training and education materials would be given, and the development of this could be a collaborative effort with existing projects.

For example, a person contributed $1000 to the project. For that cash, they could melt metal, generate steel, build a tractor with steam engine and hydraulic system for that price.

The assumption is that the designs and tooling is available. With about $1M investment, there is no question that this could be done. The entire equipment base can be built for $500k. The R&D for product design would be a dedicated year effort by 10 people, for items of key interest, at $50k/person. So $500k for labour, plus the $500k for the build, is a million.

Thus, investment would require 1000 donors at $1000 each. The facility should fit about 20 investors at a time, for a powerhouse development center of open technology. Redemption time per person would be 1 day per $1000, or 3 full years to redeem value of all investors. This is an acceptable return on investment period, and the entire lab can be built in 1 year from the point of availability of funds.

We can assume that the demand for digital fabrication tools represents a multi-billion dollar market that is also growing rapidly. As such, the money to fund development is out there. If RepLab is ten times cheaper than any existing fabrication tools, it opens up a massive new market. We should be able to capture at least a few percent of the global digital fabrication market.

The fact that RepLab would be self-replicating would mean that, though the first one would cost about $15,000, the second one would cost only the price of recycled scrap metal and plastic. When you consider that machines with a market value of thousands of dollars could be made in the workshop on a weekly basis, the economically disruptive nature of this project becomes clear.

I am hoping we could fund it by crowdsourcing from those who gain access to the designs. We can motivate donations by offering use of the developed equipment for making copies of the machines at ridiculously low costs. I would support this myself if I were to gain access to fabrication facilities and training.

Other model tool sets:



  • Q: Have you looked at the Gingery books? The lathe and shaper can replace most of a machine shop either with or without CNC capabilities. They are small machines, but sufficient for lots of needs, including bootstrapping.


    1. Website and funding basket
    2. Donation strategy - based on use of FeF facilities for low-cost replication
    1. Required PR materials
  1. Inventory of Existing Hackerspace Equipment
    1. FeF collaboratory equipment inventory
    2. Available Fab Lab facilities and equipment
    3. Hackerspaces
  2. Available design and engineering resources
    1. Encyclopedias - Fabripedia, mechanisms, industrial processes, chemical processes, food processing, agricultural equipment, equipment design, how things work (collections of mechanisms)
    2. Engineering and formula handbooks in all fields
    3. Available free software
    4. List and Evaluation of collaborative engineering platforms
    5. OSE Dedicated Project Visits
      1. Nature of visits
      2. Infrastructure development
  3. Organizational Team
  4. Summary

  • Level 1. Open Source FabLab. Approach in a modular fashion of developing technology 'primitives' that can be used as modules in many applications. Just a plain old opensourcing effort.
  • Level 2. Economic significance of RepLab tools comes from the ability of developers to engage in their production. This must be a central feature, as it allows for people to develop free enterprise. The supporters sought should be targeted explicitly for their desire to engage in free enterprise.
  • Level 3. The deeper level of economic significance comes from designing free products that can be produced with the available tools. Free business models are a part of that, and link directly into creation of post-scarcity resilient communities.

See introduction to our program in Factor e Live Distillations - Episode 6 - Personal Fabrication:

See corresponding blog post

Specific Fab Lab Components

  1. Casting and Extrusion - plastics, metals, glass, and ceramics. This is for casting engine blocks and other metal parts; for sheet extrusion of plastics (glazing applications); making glass windows or glass blocks; making insulators. Also for making extruded metals and plastics - wire, tubes, rods; as well as insulated wires. Alloys and composites may be mixed with this equipment. See Plastic Extrusion & Molding

Existing Work

  1. - project implementations built by developer - I don't know if anyone replicated this yet; documentation needs development; Factor e Farm engagement - parts list and drawings being developed (6.08) and implementation scheduled for July, 08
  2. - circuit fabrication router - project on paper; code work in progress

The tools

3D printerReprapicon.jpg Makes plastic objects from CAD files. The head is interchangeable for a small router for circuit fabrication 1 m3, 50 lb 300 Complete! See RepRap
3D scanner Device for turning 3D objects into CAD files. Combined with a 3D printer, allows you to "clone" plastic objects less than 50 Several open-source/ DIY 3D scanners exist. We need to assess their viability for RepLab. See 3D scanner
CNC torch table, router Torchtableicon.jpg RepTab, self-replicating torch table. A device with a digitally-controlled cutter that can shape metal, cut wood etc. Self-replicating for all structural parts. Can be used for LifeTrac parts, CEB Press parts, sheet metal cutting, etc. Can build structural parts for any number of electromechanical devices. 300 lb 1500 (for 280lb torque version) Prototype phase. See Torch Table. Results indicate that it can be scaled successfully to router applications with 280 lbs of moving torque by using 4 stepper motors on the x and y axis; high power router can use hydraulic motor (3000 RPM, 10-20 hp). Uses RepRap motor drivers and controls
Drill-mill-latheMultimachineicon.jpg Interchangeable hydraulic motor (0-650 rpm, 20 hp, $250); off-shelf chuck ($150) and off-shelf x-y table ($200); off-shelf spindle and collet ($200); true drill press – hydraulic cylinder ($100) moves spindle up and down; large motor can handle drilling up to 1.5”; mill funcionality via x-y table; CNC drive can be retrofitted onto x-y table; use RepTab motor drivers and controls 500 lb (welding table serves as base for added weight) 1100 plus CNC Prototype phase. Multimachine is an open-source drill-mill-lathe, but lacks CNC capability. Assess whether DIYLILCNC is appropriate for our purposes.
MIG welder MIGweldericon.jpg Heats inert gases to very high temperatures for welding 200 lb 400 Partially designed. See Open Source Welder. Open source power supply still needs to be made.
Plasma Cutter Plasmacuttericon.jpg 50 lb 300 This involves opensourcing the power supply, and using a commercial gun
Induction Furnace Furnaceicon.jpg Melts down scrap metal to be remolded. 20 kW, water-cooled coils; involves opensourcing the power supply; the rest is a melting container, pouring mechanism, and insulation 1000 lb 2000 In development. See Open Source Induction Furnace Project
Metal casting, rolling Hotrollingicon.jpg Casting involves simple molds; rolling involves high power rollers, using 20 hp hydraulic motors above; start by rolling bars from hot billet 1000 lb 2000
CNC laser cutter Lasericon.jpg Cuts metal very precisely with no need for finishing. Good for precision-engineering metal parts like rotor disks for the solar turbine and countless other small parts. We can use an existing control mechanism (like the one from RepRap) and attach a stationary laser. We need to build a laser from a $500 CO2 laser engraver tube of 80W; sufficient to cut ¼ inch wood and acrylic, and thin metal – perhaps up to 1/8” in a large number of passes; larger laser may be built from scratch by creating a tube at later phases of development. 300 lb 2000 In development by Lasersaur. See Laser cutter

Metal press, shear, and hole puncher Up to 1” holes in 1” metal; shears 3” wide 1” metal; relies on a large cylinder ($260) 1000 lb 1000
Cold cut metal saw Uses existing hydraulic motor 100 lb 100 plus blade
Computer oscilloscope Develop OS computer oscilloscope 2lb 50 Pocket-sized oscilloscope,

40 MSPS oscilloscope

Robotic arm 6 degree of freedom robotic arm for welding or other applications; use hydraulic motors ($900) with encoders 500 lb 2000 No open-source design exists yet
Spectroscope Microwave/X-Ray spectroscopy tool  ? 700
TOTAL 5500 lb $12,500

See Also