Open Modular Hardware for Farm Design
If you have never before visited Low-Tech Magazine, a blog about appropriate-scale technology design by Kris De Decker, you should change that now. The blog offers thoroughly researched and hyperlinked articles on various issues related to the role of low-tech, appropriate-tech, open source, etc. to address modern problems, and is both extremely useful and extremely interesting.
Kris’ most recent posting, “How to Make Everything Ourselves: Open Modular Hardware”, focuses on the importance of open modular design approaches for creating a more equitable, mutually beneficial and sustainable production system. Modular design refers to a design system in which components are constructed with universal features that allow them to be mixed-and-matched to construct a variety of things, and, equally important, can be deconstructed and easily reused in the future. The “open” part means that all users can create new components for this system, rather than production being controlled by one firm (think Legos – modular, but not open). This concept is universally relevant, but especially important for applications such as small-scale agriculture, where the technologies required are often pretty simple, and ideally able to be completed by farmers with tight budgets and sometimes low levels of fabrication expertise.
Many of De Decker’s articles are of extreme relevance to Farm Hack-y applications. These include pieces on stationary pedal power for farm and factory use, a history of pedal powered machines, and a traditional knowledge database. And there are many more! Peruse through them at the Low-Tech Magazine site, right here.
The Open Modular Hardware article points you towards many interesting projects already happening based on the open modular concept, one of the most advanced being Open Structures. This project takes modularity to a new level, allowing users to produce parts, structures and components all based on a shared geometric grid. All these are documented on the project website. The grid system allows a wider variety of objects to be designed, not just those with square or rectangular frames. So far, Open Structures community members have posted designs for furniture, biogas digesters, cargo bikes, and much in between.
Taking it beyond the virtual world, Open Structures has set up a physical workshop with the goal of providing a design space with their OS components, plus infrastructure and assistance to facilitate design of new structures and components. Unfortunately, this workshop is located in Brussels, Belgium – but here’s to hoping this project moves stateside soon! In the meantime, definitely check out their website.