Open Community Manufacturing: Key to an Equitable Society

The direction we’re trending is that the same amount of profit will be generated in the world but will be generated by everyone, in a way that is more equitable – in an equitable distribution of wealth mode.

- Joe Justice, Founder of WikiSpeed

Introduction to 3D printing

Introduction to 3D printing

Introduction to 3D printing

The Rep Rap project – the self-replicating machine that started it all

TED Talk – how open hardware will take over the world

Open Source Ecology’s founder Marcin presents the Global Village Construction Set


Some may be aware of the growing fascination of open-source techniques applied to manufacturing but few know the profound implications this will have in transforming our entire society. In fact, it may not be an exaggeration to claim that open community manufacturing may actually save the human civilization!

Until recently, manufacturing has been a centralized process with only a minority  able to afford to open and operate capital intensive factories. Trans-national corporations are the natural consequence of such a system and they have grown so large that their individual profits are larger than the GDP of  many countries in the world. These transnational manufacturers are effectively monopolies that control entire markets. The energy, pharmaceutical, transportation and food industry are all controlled by a handful of large players. This monopolizing tendency of unfettered capitalism is responsible for the inequity and environmental problems in the world today. Their unrivaled power and capital allows them to manipulate politicians and control policies to make them good for profits but bad for people, the planet, and ultimately their own self-interest.

Developed country markets are saturated and these same transnationals are now focusing their attention on countries of the South. China, India and African countries are projected to have the highest rates of economic growth as governments in these countries attempt to transform the poor into the middle class.  As Brazilian medical researcher Carlos A. Monteiro points out:

The saturation of developed market economies with ultra-processed products may also explain why transnationals appear to be aiming for double-digit growth—sales that increase by an annual 10% or more—in the South. For instance, the growth of the Nestlé line of “popularly positioned products” is up to 25% a year, and the market for these products in Asia, Africa, and Latin America is now estimated to be over CHF 80 billion, or a little over $US 87 billion. In Brazil, the consumption of ultra-processed products has already risen from less than 20% of calories in the 1980s to 28%, but this figure is still well short of 60%, the possible saturation level. Similarly, the current prevalence of obesity in Brazil (14% among adults in 2009), has some way to go before it reaches the levels seen in countries like the UK and the US (currently 24% and 34%, respectively)  – Carlos A. Monteiro

For example, food giant Unilever now makes more profit from selling products to the Base-of-Pyramid in developing countries than in selling in developed countries. The inherent inequity of transnational corporation lay in the theft of opportunities to citizens in the local market and vulnerable dependency. By encouraging sales of transnational corporation products, the end result is always capital flight, leaving local communities destitute and dependent. The prime example of vulnerable dependency is agri-giant Monsanto’s attempt to force farmers around the world to stop using traditional seeds and to buy their genetically modified seeds, effectively making all farmers dependent on one giant transnational corporation for their food security. The lack of transparency, biased science, dirty tactics and vast sums of money spent on lobbying reveals the ulterior motives of these companies.

They are the harbingers of ecoside and their products are more and more thought to be the source of human biota ecoside as well.

Ecocide and Economic Crisis Hand in Hand

With each passing day, the global ecocide and economic crisis continue to grow in tandem and unabated. This is no coincidence, for the plunder of resources, rampant pollution, corporate power supported by government cronyism and the vast inequity between the minority rich and majority poor all coexist as one mutually interdependent network. They all arise from the same malaise of a broken economic system which is fundamentally rooted in the psychopathy of profit.

Profit is a concept whose very abstraction brings about the greatest harm, for when a business’s sole purpose is to maximize the numbers in an account, the real-world impacts on life and ecological health fall by the weigh-side. The term “profit” gives business an air of respectability. In contrast, greed, the raw emotion that often underlies and drives profit is a term business is careful to keep at a distance.

While not all people who run businesses are consciously driven by greed,  the systematic principle of greed is the modus operandi of corporate growth. Businesses are encouraged to grow as large as the can, capture as much market as they can and to dominate and beat as many competitors as they can. This drive easily co-opts the values of  even the most principled people.

The economic system has been irrevocably gamed by its top players – top business people, top politicians, top technocrats –  riggin it so that they continue to prosper while the majority continues to suffer. The masses of the rich are drugged and consumers are sedated by distracting entertainment and consumption while the masses of the middle are rapidly shrinking and entering the burgeoning masses of the poor who are constantly in survival mode. Everyone is entrapped in a system that feeds inequity with no escape – except a cataclysmic one that will bring the house of cards tumbling down, to start the boom-bust cycle anew.

All over the world, the converging streams of crisis with no end is site is bringing about a growing recognition that this system is fundamentally flawed. From Occupy to Arab Spring, people are awakening to the vast inequities and ecocide afflicting human civlization. And amidst all of this chaos, it is open-source tools and movements which are springing up everywhere to take back the commons from the plutocracy.

Democratizing Manufacturing; a Key Building Block to a Just Future

Just as Microsoft had been fearful of the rapid encroachment of open-source software such as Linux in the 1990’s and 2000’s, now producers of 3d goods such as car, machine and general products are watching the stirrings of open-source hardware in their industries.  Today, we are on the verge of an open-source manufacturing revolution which may will have far greater implications of the open-source software revolution of the past decade. In fact, with open-source manufacturing rapidly advancing with each passing day, all the building blocks are being put in place to form an entirely open-source framework for society:

  1. open source software tools for everything from productivity to education to technology integration
  2. open source governance
  3. open source manufacturing
  4. open source, peer-to-peer digital currency
  5. collaborative consumption and reputation currency

Needless to say, this poses a huge threat to corporate interests, whose model of wealth concentration is threatened with a radical dieback or transformation if open source and open community manufacturing successfully scale.

Center for a Stateless Society

Senior Fellow Kevin Carson and Fellow Keith Taylor, both of the Center for Stateless Society have written a pith online paper that analyzes the paradigm shifting potential offered by open source manufacturing. Called New Tech as a Force Multiplier and Equalizer: Bootstrapping the Alternative Economy, the paper looks at the seismic social changes that open-source manufacturing can herald if practiced conscientiously.  Carson explores how open-source manufacturing techniques combined with a federation of cooperatives  can create an alternative economy that can displace the existing dysfunctional capitalist system. Carson also traces the application of a stigmergic-based organizational theory (a distributed work strategy often found in colonies of insects such as ants) and its ability to dissolve collaborative tensions with the principled elimination of hierarchies which perpetuate relations of power over and above improved production.

In the first part of their paper, Carson & Taylor write about renewable energy saying:

A public policy geared toward the public good whether it comes from the government, business or local level communities, would seek to mitigate neoliberal development models which act more like leaches than community symbiots. Public policy should not be used to privilege the existent destructive corporate order, but instead provide for the space necessary for alternative polycentric solutions. 


Sustainable energy generation, transmission and distribution are socio-ecological in nature. Engineering expertise must be combined with evidence of social outcomes as well to optimize solutions and combat neoliberal economic tendencies of ecological destruction. What is needed is a diverse partnership of major institutions to free market actors to participate in this next generation of clean energy development. There may be no better institution equipped to participate in this initiative than the electric power cooperative.

eschewing the politiking which gives green development and access to same cast of greed-driven corporate characters who helped cause the mess – such as Oilman T. Boone Pickens partnership with notorious polluter and tax evader G.E. to monopolize wind farms in Texas. What keeps the plutocracies stranglehold on the market is an entire network of conspiration:

The large corporation and centralized government agency do not exist just as discrete individual organizations. Beyond a certain level of proliferation, such large organizations crystalize into an interlocking and mutually supporting system. Even the small and medium-sized firm, the cooperative, the non-profit, must function within an overall structure defined by large organizations. As Paul Goodman put it,

A system destroys its competitors by pre-empting the means and channels, and then proves that it is the only conceivable mode of operating.(17)

…[T]he genius of our centralized bureaucracies has been, as they interlock, to form a mutually accrediting establishment of decision-makers, with common interests and a common style that nullify the diversity of pluralism.(18)

The interlocking network of giant organizations includes not only the oligopoly corporation and government agency, but as Goodman pointed out, the large institutional non-profit: large universities, think tanks, and charities like the Red Cross and United Way. 
Today, two ingredients are combining to create a potential challenge to the neoliberal machination that is simultaneously creating vast inequity on the one hand and ecocide on the other

Open Source Hardware and Open Community Manufacturing

Surprisingly, the low capital investment costs of open hardware and open community manufacturing has the potential to return labor with the strength it once possessed. In the United States, labor unions came into existence before the mid-19th century and were formed by striking craft workers. These workers and their portable  tools were, in essence the factory and if their conditions were not met by the employer, they could simply walk out with their tools, leaving behind only a large room with 4 walls. After the mid-19th century, factory automation took away labor’s power – mostly because unions could not afford the expensive capital outlay of the automated labor-saving equipment. Now, through the advent of the internet and open-source manufacturing, the tide has again shifted back to the workers. Today, it only takes a PC, programming skill and a good idea to become the next Facebook.  In his earlier book, The Homebrew Industrial Revolution, an Low Overhead Manifesto Carson notes that in the past 20 years, manufacturing production costs that can yield “factory” quality goods have plummeted two orders of magnitude – Rep Raps, 3D printers, DIY lathes & CNC machines, etc have essentially eliminated the capitalists advantage.

The authors write:

Modular design is simply the stigmergic development of physical goods. It is a massive force multiplier because it spreads capital outlays for R&D out over as large a product ecology as possible. Common platforms can be customized among the widest possible variety of products, and modular components to be used over an entire product ecology

The cheap open-source and community-scale manufacturing technology and stigmergic (distributed) organization offer the cooperative movement and the entire alternative economy the potential to act as an “army of Davids” to:

  • eliminate the majority of the cost of any produced item today – the economic rent of Intellectual Property
  • drive down total costs of day-to-day needs
  • create goods that are designed to last long
  • thereby frees people from the shackles of dehumanizing, non-subsistence, low-wage labor, and puts individuals and communities back in the driver’s seat of their personal and collective livelihoods

Powerful Cooperatives

Carson and Taylor write about the power and scalability cooperatives (940 electricity cooperatives in the US alone) will give the open community manufacturing movement to face their corporate Goliaths:

Taken together, the cooperative sector has enormous potential to not only proliferate growth in renewable energy, but to also foster deep, meaningful community development. This is especially true given the technological developments of recent years, which amount to an enormous force multiplier for the resources available to the alternative economy and go a long way toward nullifying the conventional capitalist economy’s advantage in resources.

If one counts all the cooperatives in the US, their membership serves an astounding 350 million members.

The authors close the paper with a challenge to us all:

Cooperatives represent one of the best examples of latent capacity ready to be engaged for true social change. Remember, there are over 700 grocery coops (300+ are looking to come online), 900+ electric utility coops, 400+ telecom coops, and 7000+ credit union coops; there is a lot of opportunity to make these individual shops into a tangible movement and create a real counter economy. Can we make it happen?

(Source: New Tech as a Force Multiplier and Equalizer: Bootstrapping the Alternative Economy)

Question: How do we stop trans-nationals whose combined momentum is pulling the planet and its people down a path of ruin?

Answer: Open Source Systems

The Transnational companies of the world are set on a path of planetary ruin. Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Business, Big Government is continuing the momentum that will carry us over the planetary cliff. UN Climate Change talks with 200 plus nations continue to stall. It is apparent that the plutocratic approach is stuck and the result is global paralysis. 

For the first time in history, the rapid advances in software and hardware offer the possibility of democratizing manufacturing – and with it to shake the foundations of the transnational’s stranglehold on power. Open Source offers the only true way to make the scale of step changes required to pull humanity back from the brink of disaster. The reason is simple – open source is FOR THE PEOPLE and BY THE PEOPLE. It is an expression of people power. If change is going to come, it must come from the people.

Software tools and principles are spilling over the hardware world bringing a bout a revolution in manufacturing.  The principles of the Open Source software movement are merging with manufacturing to create open-source hardware and open-source manufacturing. These tools, for the first time ever, allow professional level manufacturing to be democratized. This is extremely important, as when it is combined with cradle-to-cradle design techniques  the circular economy will provide a practical basis for the redistribution of wealth.

In particular, these techniques can unleash wealth creation potential latent in developing country rural communities and create practical, prosperous and resilient communities.

Open Source Ecology – a Leader in the Field of Open Source Hardware & Manufacturing

OSE is busy designing the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS), a set of 50 tools that founder Marcin Jakobuski and his group established as fundamental tools for establishing any modern civilization. OSE is making all its plans open source and downloadable from its website and is an international open source initiative. This toolset is a very low capital cost way for communities to build their own community level manufacturing. To start building these tools, you need a basic shop with a welding torch, some cutting and other basic tools and access to stock metal.


3D Printing


Marcin Jakubowski, founder of Open Source Ecology global village construction set project
Joe Justice founder of the  Wikispeed open-source car project
Marcin meets Joe and talk about the future of the open source movement
These transnationals are threatened by the word “open source”, as they rightly should. Software geeks are invading the nuts and bolts world with profound implications – nothing short of revolution. If transnationals want to hang onto greed and inequality, they will go the way of dinosaurs.  

Joe Justice and WikiSpeed

You gotta love a name like Joe Justice – with a name like this, you might guess that Joe must be doing interesting things in life. In fact, you would be right. Joe is a software geek and a founder of Team Wikspeed: a team of volunteers distributed around the world who recently created a prototype car that is open source, modular and ultra-efficient in just three months, using processes borrowed from software development, the world from which Joe comes from. Joe’s fearless software instincts of diving head into a project, albeit with sound logic has proven that the giant multi-trillion dollar car industry, traditional home to rich industrialists is very prone to the ways of open-source. Using a budget that car manufactures would scoff at, Joe has accomplished a seamingly impossible task. In 3 months, he and his rag-tag team of open source enthuisiast from around the world have built a car that achieves an incredible 100 miles to the gallon for $25K in less than 3 months! No car company or university R+D team has come close to achieving what Joe has – and on a budget that would be considered ridiculous were it not for the fact that his car works.

Wikispeed builds ultra efficient cars and we do this with seven days development cycles using agile methodologies. Those methodologies include several aspects, for example about managing distributed teams – like with SCRUM – or methods to ensure an high quality bar and focused work – much like Extreme programming and Test Driven Development as part of XP – that we reworked for the manufacturing process labeling it Extreme Manufacturing. Traditional manufacturing runs in 3 to 25 years long development cycles: this means you can go to a Porsche dealer and buy a brand new Porsche 911 car and that would be the best engineers thought you might want 24 years ago and, if we stuck with this example, Porsche recently announced that the current Porsche 911 wil be with us for the next 14 years. In Wikispeed we are aiming for mass customizationvery rapid development and technologies and efficiencies that haven’t yet existed, that are fully gamechanging and not just and incremental evolution of old and sometimes defunct technologies. To do that we iterate on seven days development cycles, that means that we can change every aspect of the car every seven days. This is possible through modularity: the car splits into eight modules that are loosely coupled so we can change one and not change the others. Wikispeed is missionized to rapidly solve problems for social good. We don’t just make cars. I recently gave a talk on methods for vaccine distribution to help eradicate Polio: we worked with a group that develops low cost medical centers and communites for this and we’ve done significant work with them. Currently, the status is that Wikispeed developed some efficiency proof of concepts: the best is a car that is secure and runs for more that a hundred miles per gallon but we launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaing (Ed: last night!) for Wikispeed to build commuter cars that people wants to drive every day and are ultra efficient and that can be manufactured at ultra low cost. We do this with OSE (Open Source Ecology). OSE gives us the platform to share ours designs, our budgets, our build practices and our maintenance videos with the world so that people can build their own ultra low cost commuter cars. Imagine in a world when your commuter car goes more than 100 Miler per Gallon in the United States cycles, that is about 1.5 liters per 100 km in Japan cycles for example, and imagine that you could maintain it by yourself – if you are inclined to do it – or that is very inexpensive to maintain if you’ve someone else to maintain it for you. Imagine it to be modular and changeable to follow your life changes, from a convertible to a sedan to a pick up truck, and that’s exactly what we’re bringing to everyone right now and OSE is giving us the platform to share it with as many people as possible. XM is the metodology to allow other business to make this changes as quickly as wikispeed is prototyping. XM is an agile methodology, it takes the best methodologies as applied by the best software teams and extrapolates them to make them applicable to every industry. In particular we’re applying this to R&D, physical engineering and physical manufacturing and we think that such a process can be used for finance, insurance, energy, law, community management, residential and commercial construction and other businesses as well. Extreme manufacturing takes the best practices for distributed team management, frugal engineering and frugal design and applies back to the physical world. The status of that is available on the wiki of OSE as it evolves and explained in videos and I think we’ll have a book and set of lectures soon. – Joe Justice

 A New Paradigm of Collaboration, not Competition

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Open-Source is a return to collaboration. This is a fundamentally different paradigm than tradition capitalism and big business. It’s about engaging people from all over the world to join the team and contributing to creating wealth for everyone. Team WIKISPEED applies another innovation. They apply team work methods common to the most successful software industry with such characteristics as Agile, Lean, and Scrum. Manufacturing and old-thought software teams:

  • gather requirements
  • design the solution
  • build the solution
  • test the solution
  • deliver the solution


Old School Car Manufacturing

In existing automotive companies:

  • the design portion of that process alone takes three to twelve years
  • then the vehicle design is built for five to fourteen years
  • This means it is possible to buy a brand new car from a dealer and that car represents the engineering team’s understanding of what the customer might have wanted twenty-four years ago
  • Molds used for a car cost millions of dollars so they will not change for many years to come until all the cost is recouped


Team WIKISPEED new school Manufacturing

based on model of Agile software teams, the Wikispeed team:

    li>compresses the entire development cycle into one-week “sprints.”

  • iterates the entire car every seven days, meaning that every seven days we reevaluate each part of the car and reinvent the highest-priority aspects, instead of waiting ten to twenty-four years to upgrade
  • This process enables a completely different pace of development


The WikiSpeed process:

An Intro to Agile, Lean & Scrum
Part 1
Part 2

Borrowing Concepts from Software and applying to Hardware

  • Lean software design – borrow the concept of using less stuff wherever responsible, defined in a clear, applicable way by the contemporary software team.
  • Extreme Programming (XP) – borrow the practices of pairing and swarming. These practices date back at least as far as the apprentice model but have been carefully defined to replace the need for most types of training and process documentation.
  • Agile software development – borrow the principle of reducing cost to make change—changes in team, materials, machinery, and even goals.
  • Scrum software development – borrow clearly defined team roles and responsibilities, allowing more time spent rapidly developing product with no nonworking (management only) roles and only two meetings.
  • Test-Driven Development – borrow the concept of starting with failing tests and then develop solutions to quickly identify if current work is not targeted to pass a test or is causing problems elsewhere in the system, which avoids waste.
  • Object-Oriented Programming – borrow Contract-First Development, which enables the modularity of the WIKISPEED car and all other solutions.
The software-born open-source movement is a giant threat to the established industrialists of today. Open-source methodology,  3D printing, rapid prototyping and collaborative manufacturing platforms are converging in every field of modern society to overthrow the inequitable, polluting and outdated centralized manufacturing paradigm of yesterday. For the first time in the history of modern civilization, the emerging field of community manufacturing, when coupled with cradle-to-cradle design methodology and biomimicry offers a concrete pathway out of poverty to the billions living subsistence lives at the Base of the Pyramid. It also poses a genuine threat to the largest future markets of transnationals corporations. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid this collision. Open-source designs from organizations such as Open Source Ecology offer the potential to significantly reduce the capital cost of manufacturing equipment and hitherto expensive goods. Since capital cost for equipment is one of the main barriers to establishing new businesses, the availability of low capital cost equipment will be a game changer. For the first time ever, the availability of such equipment at a community level will free up small communities to manufacture relatively high quality products. It makes possible what was once not. Together with proper community assessment, local economic studies such as leakage analysis and import substitution, community manufacturing can become one of the cornerstones of a new economy which returns wealth to communities while respecting planetary boundaries.
WikiHouseis an open source construction set which allows anyone to design, download and print CNC-milled houses and components which can be assembled with minimal formal training or skill. It is being developed collaboratively by a small – but growing – community of people all around the world. There is no fixed design ‘team’ or ‘studio’, but a steadily growing community of designers from all disciplines who share in common the belief that developing freely available design solutions which are affordable, sustainable, and adaptive to differing needs is a worthwhile aim. Anyone who is interested in, or is already working on, problems around this area is invited to join.

Alastair Parvin: Architecture for the people by the people


…Choose a Design from the Growing Wikihouse Design Library

…Then Assemble the Pieces Like a Jigsaw Puzzle

Putting the Wikihouse Pieces Together

WikiHouse is an open source project instigated by 00 (zero zero) with support from EspiansMomentum Engineering, and Beatrice Galilee. WikiHouse launched in September 2011 with the aim of creating an open source housing standard and web platform to allow users to share digital designs for structural house components; modelled in SketchUp, cut using a flat-bed CNC mill from structural plywood, and assembled by hand. The WikiHouse project has received worldwide support and acknowledgment having achieved global media coverage and recognition as winner of the TED Cities2.0 Award 2012.

What next? 

After a year and a half of prototyping, and with a growing community, WikiHouse now needs:

  • Improved software tools, to disruptively lower thresholds of time, skill and cost.
  • An improved community infrastructure, supporting mass collaboration.
  • Projects by individuals and organisations to build the first fully-inhabited houses.
  • An open challenge to build and expand a broader global design commons, exploring open technologies and materials; owned by everyone, accessible to anyone.

What is Wikihouse looking for?

  • Community – Designers, programmers, makers, engineers & inventors who also think that open construction is a problem worth solving.
  • Partners –  Building or research projects interested in using WikiHouse or developing it.
  • Funders – Funds to help us support the community and resource a full-time development team, and sponsorship towards the Open Challenge to develop a global construction commons.
(Source: Wikihouse)