"Design global, manufacture local"

This slogan of the new model of open manufacturing is at the core of our methodology. We aim at creating tools or machines that can be manufactured and assembled locally, anywhere in the world. In order to achieve this, we constrain ourselves to certain design principles that are explained in this article.

Assembly of 2 sub-systems of the screen printing press (arm & base)

A modular approach

In a modular approach to product design, the product is viewed as a system. A system can be broken down into several modules. Modules are connected sub-systems of components having a specific function, put together in a way that performs the required task. These modules are themselves composed of various basic parts, which are inter-compatible and can be seen as the “Lego bricks” of our tools.

Let’s have a look at our screen printing press as an example. The assembly shows here two modules, having each a specific function: the base and the arm. Both modules use, in turn, several basic parts: aluminium profiles, bearing, brackets, connection plates, etc.

There are many advantages in using such a methodology to design objects, and especially tools. Modular design allows to shorten the product design and manufacturing cycles, improves the overall product quality and reliability while facilitating its disassembly. Thus, modular design can be seen as a key modern design methodology, which not only improves the performance of a product but also plays an important role at the end of the product life cycle. Indeed, modularity is intrinsically a way of designing for disassembly, helping to create non-obsolete products that are more serviceable for the end-user and greatly improving their maintenance and repairability.

80% standard - 20% specific

We want our tools to be accessible to anyone, regardless of where he/she might live around the globe. To achieve this, we are following two key principles while designing our tools :

1. Most of the parts used in our designs have to be standard components that you could get delivered anywhere.

2. The specific parts used to connect those standard components have to be designed such as they can be manufactured using common FabLab manufacturing technologies.

All the parts composing the screen printing press (all the specific manufactured parts are in black, the rest is standard)

By common FabLab technologies, we mean all classical woodworking and metalworking tools, but also digital manufacturing technologies, such as laser cutting, CNC milling or 3D printing.

Given that FabLabs will continue to open around the world and on every continent, designing tools in such way allows people to access small production capabilities easily and gain more control on the life cycle of the surrounding objects.

Open Source & Collaborative Design

The use of the term open source originated with software but has expanded beyond that sector. It covers now every other open content and forms of open collaboration, such as at the development of physical products. It is a model that we decided to embrace by designing products that are freely available to the public and that can be modified and distributed by anyone. Thus, all the products that we release and that we sell are licensed under the Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC-SA.

a bearing block from the 3D parts library
We also believe in the power of collaborative product development, and we would like to allow the participation of any interested person. If you share our values and if you want to design a modular tool, send us a message using the form below, and we will send you a library of 3D parts that should help you start.

On the other hand, if you already have designed a tool that you would like to share, or modify according to the methodology detailed in this article, join us on our forum and start a thread to showcase what you developed. You can also visit our Wikifactory page and interact with us there.

I'm interested to take part