MACHINES & TOOLS
Machines and tools are critical appropriate technologies in all fields of research. These range from simple manual agricultural tools designed to reduce human labor, to measurement devices, generators, motors, gearboxes, and complex machines such as electric cars.
A variety of machines and tools are required to develop the infrastructure for the campus, and the appropriate technology systems. Initially many of the basic tools will need to be purchased. However, the long term focus is to minimise interaction and dependence on the monetary system and hence we will try to construct many of our own tools and machines. Open Source Ecology are a group located in the U.S.A. who are developing a “civilisation starter kit” where they are designing and testing the fundamental tools of self-sufficiency (including tractors, brick presses, lasers, and circular saws). All the designs and instructions are freely available and a worldwide community is helping improve the machines by testing their own and reporting their experiences. It is possible to construct these machines at very low cost compared to commercial alternative as it is only necessary to buy the materials.
A very powerful new technology is 3D printing (additive manufacturing) which can fabricate physical objects by depositing a material layer by layer to build up a structure. Many 3D printer designs are available open source. The most advanced and cheapest technologies are currently limited to printing polymers but there exist commercial systems capable of printing metals and other materials (more complex as they require heat treatment to form the final structure). The latter are still expensive but being rapidly developed and the costs are reducing quickly. The designs of many different objects are available open-source (and can be customised by the user) and it is possible to make your own new designs (for example by scanning an existing object to replicate it). 3D printing is an important tool for making everyday household objects, tools and replacement parts for machinery.
There is increasing interest in producing open-source machines of all types; of particular interest to us is simple, low-cost laboratory and medical equipment. There is a motivation to provide appropriate and affordable tools to schools, universities and communities particularly in developing countries.