I decided to move this info over from the Google Doc onto the Website.
This Document will serve as a (fairly) quick introduction to the CubeSpawn Project.
Section 1 introduces the technical parts of the system, and,
Section 2 explains the motivations, benefits, and puts the machines into a self sufficiency context…
Section 3 will introduce preliminary details of our partnership with the Blockchain Robotics Engineering Consortium (BREC) and Envienta.
The CubeSpawn project is an effort to build a group of form factor based, modular manufacturing machines that are as autonomous in their operation as possible. Similar to an “appliance” for one step in a industrial or manufacturing process.
A set of these machines then forms a mini factory
A CubeSpawn machine has a limited group of parameters:
All the current machines are 600mm, (close to 2 feet) while other sizes are planned (300mm, 1.2M, 2.4M) only a couple prototypes have yet been built at the 300mm size, about 30 prototype cubes and many parts for 18 machines have been built at the 600mm scale…
Type: There are two types of machines:
Blind Cell. Work is loaded through one side of the machine, and removed through the same opening (all machines are currently of this type)-Each of the 5 main assemblies in a Blind Cell machine are as follows: CubeFrame, Electrical Module, Mechanical Module, Backplane, & Machine (which can to anything it is designed to do in the space allowed, mash potatoes?, drill holes, print organs…)
Pass-Through: Work enters through one side of the machine, and exits through the opposite side. (there are no machines of this type yet) (these are designed to handle long parts, and long stock, so the machines can make parts bigger than they are in one axis)
At present two of the 4 basic machines are finished, or near completion
These are the 3D printer, and the 3 axis milling machine, These are shown above the “mechanical modules” used to mount and dismount them from the Chassis, it is possible to adapt the machines to a stand-alone role with some minor additional design.
The general goal is to have a 250x250x250mm “working envelope” in each type of blind cell machine, and a 250x250xXXX in the pass through machines, it is though that objects 3 Meters in length (10 ft +/-) are practical in the pass through units, making “truss” type construction possible. And allowing for structures much larger than the machines to be fabricated on the system…
The next step in the logical progression is to stack machines into arrays: mechanical latching and power connectors are designed but not built as of this writing.
Whereupon they will need a pallet transporter to move work-pieces around, and insert and remove modules: in this way maintenance functions can also be automated by removing a malfunctioning cell to send to maintenance or calibration, and re-arranging cells for workflow optimizations.
Aluminum base plates are transported from one cell to the next by edge belt conveyors, these will make contact to switched power when in position to run automation that bi-directionally loads and unloads pallets in cells on each side of the conveyor.
Then for safety, dust control, lasers and flying bits… etc the machines will be enclosed:
[Edit:] replaced image with one showing Pass Through on left – 05/23/2019
Some Project Goals
Recursion – machines should be able to make as large a percentage of their own parts as is practical. Parts should be designed to accommodate this goal to the degree possible, as well. For some parts this may be highly impractical, impractical parts can be deferred to the future, and manufactured more conventionally in the near term. As processes are added to the network, parts difficult to make now may become much easier as capabilities expand.
Recycling – parts should be made of easily recycled materials, especially during the early stages of the project
Templates: in addition to the basic machines in the system, digital templates to enhance, upgrade, or remix machines will be an early goal, making upgrading machine capabilities similar to software upgrades, the system can manufacture parts and improve the function of the machines you already have.
Also, templates for external resources (mobile robots, energy systems, water cleaning technology, farm implements, medical prosthesis, hand tools, carbon capture, etc) should make a local array of machines serve many useful roles in a community.
One type of structure, that has broad acceptance, is materials efficient, has very short parts, even when built at large scale, is the Geodesic dome. Currently, about half of the materials for a moderately big dome are on hand. It will be a fairly large structure, that can be made on these relatively small machines: This is two 9.75M (about 32 ft) geodesic domes. No part in it will need to be over 1.2M in length (about 4 ft). There is a lot of scrap rebar available for pennies a pound making this building under $10k USD including the concrete skin (ferrocement)
For the more skeptical, since this is all Sketchup renders to this point, the state of the system mid january 2019 was this: there are 4 operational 3D printer modules and a couple of incomplete “testing” implementations for the lathe and milling machine. (the Mill is mechanically complete 5/20/2019)
Photo credit: R.D. Childers
At present, there are 4 3D printers.
And a 100% mechanically complete milling machine design [updated 5/20/2019]
So Now What?
The point at which the system runs and works as expected is late 2019.
What does it do? Why go to all this trouble to make a bunch of small machines that do kind of what industry already does?
More importantly: how is automation applied? And who should own it?
Automation is the culmination of 200 years of aspiration to get the daily struggle off the backs of people. It is a VERY difficult thing to accomplish. 10’s of millions of people have worked for many decades !each! to bring all the practical knowledge to bear in solving the huge array of complex problems needed to get a machine to do any kind of autonomous work.
It should not be treated casually, and no single person or corporation COULD have invented it. As such it is not the property of a few wealthy mega corporations, It is the common property of the entire human race!, but it’s too expensive to own and too complex to understand in its current form.
Likely no one, living or dead, understands everything needed to build an end to end system, it has taken a great community of humanities best minds to get it to the point its at today. So its is THE issue facing society: do we let corporations continue to consolidate the benefits of this common heritage our best and brightest have created? Or, should we distribute its benefits across all of society?
I opt for the latter vision, so that efforts to build basic resources that essentially anyone can use, lead to making the creation of new solutions across ALL of society, and opportunities to create solutions to solve the big problems we collectively face.
Having local manufacturing, everywhere is at the intersection of a significant portion of the “big” problems.
By creating an integrated framework of small, affordable, machines that run themselves, it makes it possible for people of all different levels of technical ability to use the machines. (think factory capabilities, but, like a bread machine)
This makes it possible to make manufacturing for a large set of goods happen very locally, this reduces transportation, which currently makes up 15.5% of the 100 trillion $ world economy, it encourages recycling, since “trash” is often refined materials. Materials whos automated recovery, rather than disposal, makes society a little richer through its reuse, while preventing is inappropriate disposal and either the waste of its materials, or the negative environmental consequences of not managing its lifecycle.
Distributing manufacturing to communities then addresses these big problems: solid waste, and pollution from transportation and littering, as well as its cost footprint on goods,
But, since fabricating locally from digital templates using recycled materials imparts great flexibility in what can be made, both due to near zero labor costs AND inexpensive materials: creating low emission local power systems becomes much more feasible as well, which then creates a resilient, decentralized grid.
If solar power, solar thermal, geothermal, wind, wavepower, and others can be applied where they are appropriate, much less reliance on chemical energy may be achievable. Digital templates to fabricate the most appropriate solution from local materials and energy insures universal access to those solutions
There is no shortage of energy: 89,000 TW is delivered by the sun each year, human civilization uses 15 TW annually (https://www.sandia.gov/%7Ejytsao/Solar%20FAQs.pdf) unfortunately 80% of that 15TW is generated from chemical energy sources. Simply because we do not currently use Solar thermal and solar PV more effectively does not mean it isn’t a worthy and achievable goal.
Another aspect of this project that is actively being pursued is automated agriculture: in a 6000 sq ft basement under a 3000 sq ft greenhouse: we will be employing Aquaponics, Fish, Greens, Mushrooms, Rainwater capture, Robotics and passive climate control as elements of this plan.
This represents an active project:
And this building was purchased as scrap:
Much of its internal automation will be made from components purchased as either obsolete inventory, or scrap, or distressed assets, but a longer term plan is to duplicate open and equivalent designs for all the technology in the greenhouse and systems that can be distributed as digital templates.
This circles around the general purpose manufacturing capabilities of CubeSpawn to incrementally develop systems that span application from industry, to decentralized self sufficiency, and due to its recursive nature, accomplish those goals in a community driven, crowd sourced paradigm, rather than a solely capital driven one. Specialized subsets of application are in no way restricted from narrow business cases, but the systems ethos is intended to address broader, longer term purposes.
CubeSpawn has joined with the BREC (Blockchain Robotics Engineering Consortium) (http://brec.io) as well to help create Makerverse, a Game Engine based, Blockchain enabled simulation environment based on Enjin coin (an Ethereum Blockchain project)
This will enable easier, modular robotics development through the use of simulation, a accompanying multiplayer robotics game and a marketplace for, at first, purely digital robot parts and eventually, physical ones.
Development for the AR/VR component of the AI training system for CubeSpawn is another desired result. Since an AR/VR interface to the system will aid in accessing its internal spaces, and generate relevant data to train AI with. This project addresses that and many other design and interface elements to an easy to use and intuitive system
This project produces a steady stream of updates via the Telegram channel: http://t.me/makerverse
We are also Working with the Envienta Platform