Project Progress and Scaling


(build almost complete), (build started), (prototype 1 coil done), Gasifier Burner (complete design, rationale, CAD, cam files- details in next blog post), Modern Steam Engine (parts kit arriving next week), and Backhoe (design challenge is up at GrabCAD). You can download a linked map by Aaron that shows the scope of some of the activity in the USA.
Most intriguing to me is two of high school engineers from Pasadena- who are replicating LifeTrac independently – with a goal to donate it to in Los Angeles. See in their fund-raising effort.

Development priorities for this year have been outlined in the from on .

Here I outline our current strategy. We are shifting to emphasize the role of retired professionals as the core of the open source product development cycle. Retired professionals have the necessary experience, many are looking for higher purpose after a long career, and they typically have the time. Many such people also understand the ethic of lifetime design and design for human service – where things used to be simple and they used to last a lifetime. From the strategic perspective, it should be clear that if we are recuiting developers to the project, we should prioritize finding individuals with a lifetime of experience, who can save us much development time when we tap into their experience. Therefore, rapid product development cycles on the order of one week can and should happen for the design phase –  as we are not inventing anything new. We are just open-sourcing proven techniques and designs that are found in industry standard machines – adapting them to OSE Specifications.

I think that finding these professionals is more important than finding funding – because the input of such professionals is substance that will allow funding to happen in a straightforward fashion.

Here are some further descriptions regarding the existing development, priorities, and needs. These are being updated continuously on the Status Briefs page on the wiki.

  1. Ironworker Machine – . Roger Olson is helping us with opensource fabrication of hardened cutting blades for the Ironworker. Fabrication requires machining, hardening, and surface grinding. The hole punch, flat, and angle shear blades cost about $1400, so it is worthwhile to pursue blade fabrication. Assistance needed: help in a conversion of Sketchup into a professional CAD package to perform CAE analysis on predicted shearing and punching capacity.
  2. Modern Steam Engine – last week I traveled to Detroit to visit with Gary Hadden, a member of the Steam Automobile Club of America, who is offering the world’s only modern steam engine kit. We are using this as the platform for OSE’s development of the modern steam engine – an 8 hp, double acting, poppet valve uniflow steam engine. The part kit will be shipped next week. Gary also helped me to secure 2 Bridgeport mills and a surface grinder for machining the steam engine and for beginning work on the CNC Multimachine. While in Michigan, I stopped at Tom Kimmel’s Steam Automobile Club of America (SACA) headquarters – a leading information source on modern steam power. Contact Mark Norton, Modern Steam Engine project leader, if you are interested in collaborating.
  3. Heat Exchager – While at the SACA headquarters, we wound heat exchanger coils – a monotube steam generator. See the detailed – including pressure testing to 3000 psi. This will be used to convert water – heated by a gasifier burner – into steam to run the steam engine. Welding pancake coils is not easy. However, it appears that we do not want to do pancake coils for pellet gasifier burners – our fuel choice for stationary and mobile power. According to Larry Dobson, below, pancake coils will be about half as efficient as helical coils when a superefficient gasifier burner is used. It turns out that helical coils are much easier to build than pancake coils, as all the welds in the associated tubing can be made while the tubing is straight – prior to coil winding. This saves a factor of approximately 4-8 times in terms of welding time required for helical coil production. This is great news for post-scarcity economies. Now I am convinced that power production will be achieved without any major fabrication obstacles in the post-material-scarcity economy.
  4. Gasifier Burner – I just returned from a visit to Larry Dobson of , developer of super-efficient gasifier/heat exchanger stoves. Larry Dobson is our project leader on the gasifier burner. He just produced , 1984), biomass pellets can replace between 10-90% of all fossil fuels. Needs – Larry will be taking video and experimenting with realtime vlogging via a smart phone. He needs help in video documentation, so if you are in the Seattle, Washington, area, you can help him with video documentation. We are building out two prototypes concurrently – one of his spiral heat exchanger design, and one with a helical monotube for higher pressure applications.
  5. CNC Circuit Mill – Yoonseo is heading this development at Factor e Farm. His design is from scratch and emphasizes OSE Specifications of design-for-disassembly, modularity, and scalability. It is similar to in concept. See his . We are using Pololu stepper motor drivers, but we are moving to higher power – 3 amps at 60v per channel – using collaborator Darren Vandervort’s . We will be evaluating this driver as a replacement for the Pololus as well as a replacement for the Gecko 540s that we are currently using on the CNC Torch Table.
  6. CNC Torch Table – Ben Horton is currently building a copy of – a proven design with hundreds of hours of production run time – as the OSE CNC Torch Table Prototype II. He is also providing full CAD drawings. We are building a 6’x11′ foot structure to handle up to 5’x10′ sheets of metal. Needs– addition of automatic z height control.

Some other points of collaboration are:

  1. Texas CollaborationJames of Creation Flame will be helping in further field testing of LifeTrac. He and his crew will upgrade LifeTrac III to LifeTrac IV – by building quick connect wheels and bending the loader arms for improved weight balance. They will then do extensive field testing of the tractor in construction – expansion of their facility.
  2. TED Conference – as , I am going to the . I am not presenting a talk – as new project results are still in their birthing stage. Instead, I will take this opportunity to get introduced to supporters. Lesa Mitchell from the will be making introductions on my behalf, and my main quest will be recruiting organizational and project management talent. I plan on presenting at later this year.
  3. Shuttleworth Foundation – Karien Bezuidenhuit, COO of , will be visiting Factor e Farm prior to TED. I have been connected to other . These Fellows are working on topics from open law, open knowledge, open publishing, open institutions, open mesh telephony, open science – open everything. I look forward to significant collaboration, starting with using as our new publishing platform for GVCS documentation.
  4. Open Source CAD/CAM Solution – discussion on the much-needed, professional-quality open source CAD/CAM solution was reawakened as other open hardware players have a lead on funding. I personally think that this proposition will be trivial to fund – every designer wants an open CAD/CAM platform. I will continue looking for opportunities to get this moving. An open platform is a prerequisite to delivering the promise of digital, distributed fabrication. To deliver the open CAD/CAM solution, we still need to define a clear problem statement – based on: (1), assessment of existing open source CAD/CAM solutions; (2), assessment of their software architectures; and (3), a proposition of the desired functionality and associated software architecture for achieving that functionality. I am convinced that developing an open solution based on existing work should not require thousands of human years of development, but between 10-100 human years of development if approached correctly. Existing notes on the CAD/CAM solution can be found on the wiki, but this needs work.


  1. The top video does not shows, just to let you know…

  2. Kevin

    Have you not heard of Gek Gasifier. It’s an open source how to build on gasifiers. Perhaps the best info out there on gasifiers.

    They also produce and sell 10kw and 20kw systems that are set on pallet. These are used worldwide.

  3. […] are scaling the project. We are recruiting a team at this point. Many responses to our recruiting came through the above […]

  4. Anthony

    Gek Gasifier’s are great. Part of why they are great is that they use gas sensors to to tweak the air flow and water introduced to the gasification chamber. They also use counterflow heat exchange and quite a bit of SS requiring specialized welding. It might turn out to be a bit hi-tech for GVC’s ethos. Cast fire brick and a trained operator seems more GVC to me.

  5. Max Kennedy

    How about a link/instructions on how to acquire the “worlds only modern steam engine kit” rather than only a link to some pretty pictures?

  6. Max Kennedy

    Also, saw this over at Maker and thought it could be applicable to the projects here

  7. […] & H has been hard at work. First came a mention in an Open Source Ecology blog post. Next, we picked up our shirts, tank tops and bumper stickers […]