LifeTrac Construction Set

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HintLightbulb.png Hint: See 2021 work at Tractor Design Guide and 2023 work at LifeTrac_Construction_Set_2.0.


A construction set that allows for the production of utility ground vehicles such as tractors, trenchers, mowers, compactors, tree spades, chippers, pelletizers, hay rakes, balers, combines, shredders, backhoes, loaders, bulldozers, mulchers, rock pickers, brush hogs, heavy duty loaders, metal lifters, timber harvester, grapples, berry and fruit picker, rock crusher, conveyor belt, metal roller, mobile kiln, charcoal maker, concrete mixers, slag transporters, augers, demining tractors, cherrypickers, telehandlers, skid loaders, fork lifts, dump trailers, graders, scrapers, follow-me transporters, etc.

The idea is that a single set of building blocks can be reconfigured on a time scale of up to 30 minutes (15 minutes for function, 15 minutes for drive) to perform fundementally different functions, such as shifting from an excavator to a dump trailer in this time frame.


Working doc - [1]

Tractor Construction Set in FreeCAD - 2017

Concept: put all OSE design library parts into FreeCAD and engage mass collaboration on heavy equipment using open source design.

Requirements - 2015



This page has been updated last on: Jan 23, 2016

Introduction: After 8 years of prototyping (see Prototypes Built and Cost), about 50 different primitive modules have been designed, built, and tested. These serve as the building blocks in OSE's Construction Set Approach. The goal of the following gallery is to provide an overview of the scope of what has been accomplished, with a focus on explaining the ecology of modules that are being created. These modules fit together and can be mashed up to form an unlimited number of machines. Ie, after years of builds, we are observing that an ecology of modules is emerging in a coherent way, and initial results indicate that a veritable Construction Set for all kinds of machines can be created. This brings to life the identity of OSE's work as a Life-Size Lego Set for production tools. We have shown both Intensive Scalability and Extensive Scalability, have stacked up to 3 Power Cubes for 75 hp, and have gone through more than 6 iterations on the Power Cube, CEB Press, and Tractor, as well as many other machines. Until now, we have used a lot of different 3D CAD software, mostly proprietary, because there was no sufficient open source CAD solution. As FreeCAD has emerged to support our full needs, primarily with the creation of the Assembly 2 workbench - OSE's CAD needs can now be met in FreeCAD, and any new features, such as CAE analysis, can be added to FreeCAD's highly extensible architecture. As such, the modules below are being ported into FreeCAD, such that all of OSE's future development can occur on a unified CAD platform, with a quarterly-updated OSE Linux distribution helping to move a collaborative effort forward towards a full Open Source Product Development pipeline.

See Part Library for listing of all the modules.

LifeTrac Construction Set Design Guidelines - 2013

  • Mechanical: Use 4”x4” tubing, Stock Pivot Plates, and Stock Bonding Plates
  • Custom plates are used whenever stock plates do not have the required geometry.
  • Use Power Beyond Sleeve for power downstream

General Quality Control

  • Minimize parts count
  • Calculate overall cost and minimize parts count by smart design
  • Minimize the amount of material used by simplifying design
  • Minimize hose lengths

See 3 Month Prototyping Plan 2013 for prototyping plan of Q2, 2013.

Overview of Need

Affordable, user-centred equipment that can be manufactured wherever stock steel and parts can be obtained. The goal is to produce industrial machinery - such as tractors - which can be used to produce hundreds of thousands of horsepower hours per year at an operating cost of $500 per year, Fuel Included.*

Technology Concept

We are using square tubing and various plates as a route to creating a Universal Construction Set for heavy machinery. Together with interchangeable power units, wheel modules, and other modules - and by adding certain dedicated components - one can build just about any heavy machine. Conceptual examples are shown below.

We are transitioning the build of LifeTrac and related machines to fabrication with the CNC Torch Table to allow for 1-day builds of each machine. This utilizes primarily 1/2" steel and 4"x4" steel tubing for building out modular components. Allows for similarity in build out of tractor and variants, micro-tractor, bulldozer, truck, backhoe, power unit, hammer-mill, sawmill, iron-worker machine, micro-combine modules, backhoe with 360 degree rotation, pelletizer, car, trencher, universal rotor, universal seeder (with plow/disc/cultivator modules/rotary cutter (hay cutter), hay rake), well drilling rig, and CNC torch table/large Gantry Mill.

Rollout Sequence

The roll out sequencing for the Tractor Construction Set looks like this:


Module Based Design

For the above, the Module Based Design strategy looks like this:


Vehicle Frames


Frames Allow Various Attachments


Power Cube Construction Set

See more about Power Cubes at Power Cube.



  • Build XYZ structure Power Cube, Prototype VIII
  • Add wheels and control.
  • Add Quick Attach module
  • Add equipment modules

Stiff Joints


Pivoting Joints


Pivoting Joints 2


Scalable, Open Source Car



Pivot Joint Scalability


Scalable Ironworker Machine


Hydraulic Quick Couplers


Strategic Partnerships

Implementation Priorities

  • Establish Communication Channels - IRC, email, stack overflow, Twitter handle, Facebook group, wiki team page, CiviCRM contact base, True Fans Network? Invite LifeTrac Construction Set moderator.

OSE intends to build out a 50 hp 1.6 Liter Air Cooled VW engine-based Power Cube, followed by either Joe's 150hp PowerCube with the most efficient Honda engine - but that engine is $8k with radiator - or a Modern Steam Engine powered Power Cube. We need up to 300 hp for larger power machines like bulldozer, or for 200kW of electrical power generation for producing local steel with a 200 kW Induction Furnace.

Technical Strategies

I have been thinking about 4x4 tubing as the industry standard for OSE, in 3/16-1/2" wall thickness. This allows us to do everything from microtractor to tractor to bulldozer frames, backhoes + truck bodies + CNC Torch Table frame + Power Cube frames. For the latter, the power cube itself become highly structural and you can use the Power Cube itself as part of the vehicle frame. To do this, I am considering welded nuts inside the frame member so one could impact wrench the corners quickly and easily, or we can do metal connectors

See Also