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Open Source Tractor (dozuki.com)
887 points by vincent_s 53 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 204 comments



This project is terrific. People are critical of what it doesn't do, I'm in awe of what it does do.

You're going to have little two man shops in Africa and Asia cranking these out and changing agriculture in their part of the world.

This demonstrates the power of open source. These engineers are to be commended.


> This demonstrates the power of open source. These engineers are to be commended.

if you haven't seen the famous Open Source Ecology pitch by Marcin Jakubowski, you're in for a treat!

Open-sourced blueprints for civilization | Marcin Jakubowski, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GEMkvT0DEk


I need to watch that! I'm developing an algorithmically-driven civilization architecture concept.

(in the sense of, how to organize society from a blank slate point of view, while maximizing the wealth of experience for all individuals? I think we've gotten a little caught up in ideology and culture wars and stopped looking for ideas to move society forward with more efficient, humane, robust, collaborative (or adversarially cooperative) societal organization systems)

If you thought society as consisting of a large number of agents (with varying degrees of self-interest and diverse motivations), how would you design a system that enables maximum productivity, and maximum well-being? (in the sense of conscious experience: a rich and wealthy life; not necessarily tied to having particular stuff)

Seriously, in all our 100,000 years more or less of modern human existence we've seriously toyed with about 2 large scale architectures of society. Why can't we try better in a non-destructive way?


I wrote a few replies to this that I didn't feel like posting. The issue is that when I think about it the concept seems a lot deeper and broader than I give it credit for.

What you should do is design a personality and a society simultaneously, design the personality such that it ponders the society and the society so that it builds such characters. The improvement accomplished reinforces the loop.


Thanks for the support. Feel free to mail me.

The current avenue of approach is indeed in two System Parts:

(1) Definition of the problem: If we want things to be 'best' in a sense, 'maximally humane', 'maximum quality of experience', 'maximum quality of life, existence and culture', etc. we should define those things, and create structures that continually refine and employ the best methods to asses and measure progress.

(2) Optimization of the problem: Choosing the architecture and structures that maximizes our measures. This again almost certainly is some kind of distributed structure that gives rewards and occasionally demands compensation (for a generalization of negative externality -- generalized externality of existence).

I often say that the Universe is a search problem. This is just a big honkin' search problem :)

---

Capitalism leaves the job of (1) on the individual, and on the government somewhat. The job of (2) is accomplished by a dual again of capital (supply and demand, allocation of capital for maximum profit) and government (using taxes and incentives). Again the problem of capitalism is that it doesn't account for externalities very well (too often ends up maximizing the wrong function), and the problem of government is inefficiency, centralization (algorithmic inefficiency of resource allocation strategies), lack of agility.

Note: Capitalism (without support structures) is very similar to evolutionary dynamics. It's hard to model exactly what evolutionary dynamics maximizes, but one formulation is that it maximizes environmental domination: expanding to cover the most of the environment, whatever it takes. Lose consciousness and become soul-less robots to take over everything? Sure, no problem; and annihilate anything that gets in the way. Accidentally or not evolutionary dynamics gave us life and consciousness, but it's not certain life and consciousness will endure as essential for environmental domination (in a way, consciousness is currently related to intelligence via humans, but we for example already appear able to create super-human intelligence that is not conscious or at least not very conscious). So we need to change the objective function to create a great harmonious future where some for of existence... exists.

To see why evolutionary dynamics and environmental stability (i.e. the result of environmental expansion) doesn't prize conscious experience (in general, the Meaning of life), I use two thought experiments:

(1) Generalized grey goo/Paperclip maximizer. Again, just picture a very intelligent creature dedicated to maximizing only its environmental domination. It will create other forms of intelligence only as much as needed to maintain its dominion. Any form of existence that's not immediately conductive to the maintenance and expansion of dominion is irrelevant/negative value. I can only see this leading to an empty Universe and a few singular intelligences looking for ways to annihilate all other existences at maximum speed focusing on weapons research and planetary domination exclusively.

(2) Doomsday button. The ultimate thought experiment in this line is the following: suppose you assume environmental regularization (domination) originated by your actions is the 'Ideal goal of existence'. Then I present you a doomsday button: If you push the button, you will trigger some kind of physical mechanism that will consume the entire universe into a regular lifeless crystal-like structure. Think of it as a bomb of expanding regular wave that takes over the entire universe. In a way, this represents a maximally stable solution to dominating the environment... maximum effect, perpetual and irreversible. But that doesn't look like a good solution at all, does it? It's in fact lifeless and non-existential.

Clearly the ultimate objective is related to existence, not to environmental domination or regularization by some abstract definition of 'Individual' or 'Nation' or whatever. If we can't change objective, I predict we'll be consumed by this savage nature quite soon.

---

I don't mean to trivialize System Part 1 (Evaluation). It's literally all that matters to humanity and existence. I guarantee it's not a second degree equation :) For example, individual autonomy can be an important component of human experience, the ability and free will to decide more or less independently is likely an important part of the whole.

My approach is that we need to define the Meaning of life clearly. We've also postponed this way too much as a Civilization. By now it shouldn't be that complicated -- we know it's got to do with experience and somehow the internal dynamics of a large neural network, the sustainability and continuity of life. I have a draft[1] but don't expect it to be bulletproof. This should evolve into a Formalization of Ethics program (hopefully a collaborative, worldwide effort) to get the basics done. Think of it as a Super Declaration of Human rights, or a Foundation of Ethics (like we have a Foundation of Mathematics).

This could not be ignored by any nation, hopefully in the short term strengthening clarity and convictions on the objective of human (and generalized conscious) existence.

This Foundations should be Universal.

First, I'm convinced the rough draft (given above) is correct, it should be a matter of truth and reason[2], and not require any advanced metaphysics or elicit genuine controversy after rational examination. This is also part of a new propostion for making philosophy that I call 'Explosive Philosophy': the negation of the Principle of Experience (i.e. consciousness is not the prime motive of existence) leads to absurdity as demonstrated by several thought experiments. Explosive Philosophy is the use of rejection by absurd by taking particularly obviously unacceptable consequences of a principle.

Second, if some Nation is a Competitive Supremacist (i.e. Evolutionarist), that will clearly put it in conflict with the Conscious Foundations. It will try to achieve domination at all costs, and eventually it will need to settle with the Foundations[2] or live under constant watch to make sure it doesn't take over everything or even consume itself.

---

Afterwards, the plan is as I insuated, to change the Political-Economic-Cultural system to reflect the universal values (including diversity from derived heuristics). The main idea I've had is to create concrete measures related to Quality of Experience, and a distributed network of evaluations, each specialized in a segment of society (Science, Industry, Culture, Philosophy, etc.) measures impact of Corporations/Entities/Individuals, and compensates for the error the capitalist system has.

So if I create predatory advertisement, this has a social cost. An evaluator can perceive this, measure it (estimate it), and demand compensation (to be given back to society). The evaluator itself takes a share of this compensation to reward its effort. The evaluator can even colaborate with the company to more acurately measure the externality, and reduce the compensation (under uncertainty the evaluator would have an adjustment to overestimate/take an upper bound of the evaluation).

Those evaluator are adversarially cooperative, and predictive, in the sense that they oversee themselves as well, and are predictive. The success of an evaluator is asessed later: a market is established for the correctness of the decision.

The idea is to replace Supply-and-Demand with Science: in particular, a kind of Eventual Consensus -- in simple terms, the Consensus of evaluation by relevant audience/specialists upon reflection after a long time. The Consensus is made through cross-evaluation of evaluators (they get funds based on the later re-evaluation by the wider evaluation network), as well as certain input from individuals, corporations and government. Transparent (and relatively simple) algorithms resolve the credit assignment problem of how each evaluator should be credited. This is similar to the slow eventual consensus of Science, although the goals are different and the system would be both simpler and more transparent. That's close to a definition of truth itself: the eventual consensus model revealed by experiments and sufficient formal reasoning (following axioms of logic, and axiom of reality).

I call this idea 'Elementalism' for now.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/EffectiveAltruism/comments/p2w4ql/e...

[2] Any similarity with Asimov's Foundations is a mere coincidence? :)

[3] https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/p6ng5d/what...

Note: What I mean by experience is not any kind of pure hedonism. It's a deep, rich internal collection of qualities and perception of the mind -- consciousness. Again we need principles and consensus to conclude what is the wisest experience, but we can derive general principles, largely centered around our cognition having structure, meaning and depth (this is getting really long so I'll stop now :) to discuss exactly what this means is involved).


I didn't mention Open Source development funding, which is something I think is inexplicably important. (You may consider it an exercise to the reader)

Since I can't leave it to chance, here is the solution anyway: Open Source has clear benefits to a huge number of users. This is a huge positive externality. So the evaluators would be trying to measure this positive impact and reward accordingly.

By reward, we should recognize money has 3 functions in society:

(1) Rewards as compensation for expenses. Straightforward: compensate for whatever expenses needed to sustain himself and bring the product to society.

(2) Rewards as investment for future development. This allows the person to create more of what he just did, or create something he only has proposals for so far. This is a kind of predictive compensation for expenses, diminishing risk and allowing realization without capital.

(3) Rewards as Recognition. Everyone needs a signal 'I'm doing well/I'm doing a good thing/I hope I'm of value to someone'. Rewards act as recognition of this value. Today we only have social recognition and a prize here and there, which not many exist.

(4) Rewards as Individualistic Motivation. This one is the primary means we are "supposed" to operate in a competitive environment. Your rewards are spent to satisfy your needs and desires as an individual. (Of course this is fine, everyone has needs and desires... although it's questionable whether one individual can have a 100000x or more the sensitivity or needs of another individual to justify massive individualist expenditure). We should hold no delusion -- we are advanced primates, and want a "banana" or "carrot" or whatever, so this should of course be taken into account.

With all 4 modes of operation, society should work quite well, and individuals should be happy and motivated.


The overall idea is to create an environment of collaboration (as much as feasible), where each individual can be fairly certain he will be recognized for his efforts proportionally to the common good.


You're in luck! We're in the midst of a transition to a brand-new architecture. You're going to love social credit.

Expert social engineers (sociologists, psychologists, economists, environmental scientists, et. al.) will be chosen to define "well being" using the latest scientific research and data. Money won't exist. You'll have a social credit score from 0 to 1000 depending on your overall value to society, the economy, and the environment. Higher scores will qualify you for better food, housing, and transportation. Lower scores will subject you to various restrictions or even imprisonment. Purchases will deduct different amounts from your score depending on their true overall societal cost; prices will include all economic externalities as determined by the experts.

Since the score asymptotically caps out at 1000, all economic inequality problems will be solved. In addition, there won't be the bureaucratic corporate management overhead of the current institutional patchwork because an expert-tuned AI management system will give you instructions on what work you need to do to help your score (including diet and exercise), using your mobile device or neuralink.

Luckily, there won't even have to be a violent revolution to reach this utopia, because just about every world leader at the UN, WEF, IMF, BIS, major political parties, large corporations, and so on are ALL on board with this.


Sorry for being cynical.

On the trajectory we're on, we're going to need people like you (OP) to figure out what we'll build on the ashes of our current civilization. I see you like diversity libertarianism / Archipelago. A more robustly decentralized version of the current US constitution, which was actually really good until the corporate coup.


What if we could throw what generations of people collectively built for a concoction some random dude came up with on their own? What about using the same time investment to contribute to improving our current systems?

Whatever you come up by yourself has zero chances of coming to fruition outside your apartment. Working on your local community to improve lives of real people or joining a political party and influencing the direction of debate is way more actionable.


What a negative response. Someone is trying to come up with a new idea and you say you should only work to improve ideas that already exist. Say that to anyone who has ever come up with a paradigm shifting idea. It’s opinions like this that prevent people from trying to break the mould. Their enthusiasm should be encouraged irregardless of its effectiveness.


Thanks, and don't worry, I am antifragile :) (to a finite extent, of course!)


Oh yes, believe me, I have enormous respect for our current system. It works really well. It has amazing emergent behavior.

In a way, I want to improve the current system; it's just sometimes an issue of branding, mental models, and compatibility, that it can be useful to think of it as something new. Like a new software that's inspired by legacy systems.

For example, by now it's clear that Open Source technology is almost a miracle. The potential for civilization for a large scale conversion to open source technologies is hard to grasp. Imagine every product sharing design files, and new manufacturers/designers being able to build upon all every other design with zero friction.

We have the problem of how to compensate the developers. Currently we're going with a bland of donations, support systems, and a few other apparently meager funding sources. I don't think our legal system is prepared to tackle this (i.e. you can't fix it completely with a well designed license), and neither our economic system can. So that already begs a certain kind of redesign... what if we had some kind of distributed/decentralized entity supervising the flow of technology/information and rewarding them according to societal impact?

We tend to think of a simple government/industry division, but government tends to be too centralized and imperfectly aligned to effectively fulfill this kind of role (industry due to its economic design tends to perform better).

One of the idea (please, give it a try as well!) is to have a decentralized network of adversarially cooperative evaluators for this (in a system that cross-validates itself and economically aligns estimation accuracy).

This seems naive or small-scale.

But almost every major issue from society stems from this imbalance: the improper/imperfect reward mechanism for doing what's good for us; imperfect coordination. Examples: Predatory advertisement, Pollution, Climate change, Open Source funding, Cultural funding, Addiction-driven design, ... I could go on.

I'm not thinking of completely replacing what we have, but having a third element working alongside government/industry.

This is literally the most important problem in the history of humanity and... there's no much on it, except for ideologically-driven discussion.

Remember: Ideology is a mind killer! [1]

[1] https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/9weLK2AJ9JEt2Tt8f/politics-i...


> One of the idea (please, give it a try as well!) is to have a decentralized network of adversarially cooperative evaluators for this (in a system that cross-validates itself and economically aligns estimation accuracy).

Isn’t this Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”?


> Whatever you come up by yourself has zero chances of coming to fruition outside your apartment. Working on your local community to improve lives of real people or joining a political party and influencing the direction of debate is way more actionable.

Just because someone isn't spending their time in the way you deem most effective doesn't mean it's not beneficial for themselves or others.

Iterative change is useful and helpful, but it's also how you get stuck in local maxima. They way out of local maxima is to step back and look at the problem fresh without some of the built in constraints of the current system, and is very useful as well even if they end up going back to us, and isn't something we should discourage people from doing.

If nothing else, they'll likely come away with a good understanding of the constraints of the system and why choices are made, and more importantly a "why" that's far more involved and justified than "well, that's how it is and we can't feasibly change it now."

This is the same reason why it's good to have people attempting to make a new HTTP server, or a new database system, or a new ORM. Those people often end up really understanding those systems extremely well even if they usually go back to using the status quo, and once in a blue moon they come up with something new and novel or at least beneficial under a slightly different set of constraints which better serves a certain audience.



Where can we follow your work?

What help do you need?


Way back when I reached out to them for getting the actual blueprints for a light industry coop - modular open source welders? Sign me up!

Got a reply along the lines of "we are working with our sponsors and will not be releasing any blueprints".

10 years later you still can't get blueprints from their site: https://www.opensourceecology.org/gvcs/gvcs-machine-index/

They seem like the solar roadways of open source hardware.


No indication that they ever completed it. Almost seems, I dunno, scammy. The buzz machine works, but like-- where's the beef?


I doubt that IP of tractor designs is a major factor in third world poverty. I’m sure there are factories in Asia pumping out cheap tractors already


It's not. Third world countries have much bigger concerns than policing the first world's imaginary property. Mostly they'll just ignore any violations for as long as economically viable. If it's important enough, HIV medications for example, they'll even make the fact they don't care about patents official.

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110105/01260212521/paten...

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world/brazil-ignores-us-giant...


> I doubt that IP of tractor designs is a major factor in third world poverty.

what's your logic here? the intellectual property system is the way the global north propertied class dominates the global south; i.e. renting out the commoditized blueprints/designs and charging insane royalties [1]

[1] Vijay Prashad, https://mronline.org/2019/09/29/iphone-workers-today-are-25-...


Can you be specific?

E.g. precisely what patent, design patent, trademark, or copyright is stopping the entire of Africa from designing and building an indigenous diesel tractor?


Do you think cheap tractor makers in china or India give a fig about IP?


They do. Or, to be precise - they are daughter companies of global corporations that keep their marketshare thanks to IP.


And that’s why there are no cheap Chinese cars or trucks or tractors or guns or engines or any of that stuff ..


Many times you'll see a "knockoff" or semi-clone before the original product comes out, even. Which is amazing and awesome.

If our systems weren't built around intellectual property it would enable some pretty remarkable things.


the west is literally trying to provoke a huge war with china because china is no longer dependent on the west's intellectual property. your framing seems ignorant to me.

Vijay Prashad: What's the Left to Do in a World on Fire? | China and the Left, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vd8w3ONjv6Y

Vijay Prashad: No Cold War with China, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj1ggllXmws


This is a controversial opinion, but I agree.

The global west is realizing it done goofed up; because China does not give a shit about IP and now has the intellectual capability to successfully produce new products which compete with US product. The good news is that China's economy is actually a bigger mess than ours somehow, despite our limited means of production. Everyone is too scared of nuclear war, but the actual war is a strange economic war of 'Who is going to collapse first'.


Isn't this the same situation that the USA eventually found itself in with respect to the USSR? I think the whole cold war can be re-envisioned as a socioeconomic conflict.


I believe it so as well. I was just reinforcing that I don't believe conventional war can occur without a major technological innovation in missile defense. It all comes down to sociology-economics, which is in turn downstream of culture. Neither the USA or China have close to optimal culture, but even accounting for western propaganda, the United States is a much happier place.

Source: I met many Chinese people in college. Many of them were striving for success with such fervor because they wanted to stay in America.


1. selection bias

2. depending on when you went to college, your experience could be out of date

surprised you would make such definitive statements on something as hard to measure as happiness, without better sources


Would you rather live in China, than the USA?

Not attacking, I am genuinely curious about what you think. From the outside looking in, it seems like people are overworked, overcrowded and rather unequal. Also they have a lot of pollution in many areas.


I would still rather live in the US, as an American, but I don't think this is how to think about the original statement. It's all relative, right? In absolute terms you can say they're overworked and overcrowded, but they can still be happier than us because they reference their past experience and they see the progress the country has made. We see a lot of dissatisfaction in the US today, despite having higher QoL than China, because things have not improved for large swathes of the population. I'd honestly be surprised if the average Chinese citizen were less happy than the average American.

I also appreciate the Chinese faith in their government and their sense of national purpose. People talk ad nauseam about our political polarity, but another issue is that it's basically American culture to question government competence now. I don't think people fully realize how damaging that is for society. Pollution and inequality are problems, but the sense of most Chinese is that the government is working to fix them. What do you think they see if they look at us? Probably theatrics and gridlock, that's what Americans feel after all


> Chinese faith in their government

This does not really exist. Explanation:

Corruption in its forms – bribes, nepotism, scams perpetrated by officials, selective law enforcement, exploitation of socialised resources and capital for personal gain by officials, arbitrate rule changes without prior notice – are experienced by the populace on a daily basis from their local-level government. It creates magnitudes stronger problems than theatrics and gridlock. There is no one who is content with the work and quality of the local-level government. The people can only bitch in private because they know that public petitions are ignored and protests/demonstrations/riots are swiftly cracked down.

The effects of the high-level government OTOH usually cannot be seen or felt directly. A constructed image of the effects is disseminated by the propaganda arm of the party through newspapers, tv and radio, internet. People do like these success stories, but they are not accurate w.r.t. reality.


> From the outside looking in

This perspective is not useful. You have to put yourself into the shoes of an abroad student, and then you will understand why the majority of them chooses to return home after getting the degree. Attraction factors are generally more important than the detraction factors you enumerated (overcrowding isn't even an objective one): these people want to be with their network of family and acquaintances, be part of a culture and speak the language they understand, and exploit their new knowledge to become wealthy without additional hurdles.


Re-envisioned?! The Cold War was explicitly a socioeconomic conflict.

What do you think the communist nations' ideological goal was?


You’re making oblique references and (I guess?) assuming that some conclusion is obvious. A more direct statement of your point might help here.


> A more direct statement of your point might help here.

abolish Silicon Valley. [1]

[1] Wendy Liu, https://tribunemag.co.uk/2019/01/abolish-silicon-valley


There is a school of economics that claims to oppose the upwardly mobile rich but in fact mostly harms the upwardly mobile poor. Linguistic patterns are no proof of motive but they certainly indicate who an author is writing for.


the twang is strong


shoot your shot buddy!


“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.”

― Ursula K. Le Guin


I feel like tractors are like AK-47s, kinda de facto grandfathered in before Neo-liberalism and Globalization made exporting IP law a big part part of of geopolitics.


Basic tractors, like the AK-47, are also designable by most decent mechanical engineering students without a lot of work if they spent an afternoon googling first for prior art (and that prior art has long had any patents expire).

Which if there is an ecosystem related to this, that’s great as the manufacturing is where you need economies of scale pretty badly and everyone benefits from it.

There is no also no need for a basic excavator to cost $30k or more. Let’s do something about that too!


Look, I really want open source to meet the "real world", and not be stuck as another "socialism for the rich" where companies can do things on the cheap but the software is useless to the average person as an alternative to anything. (Great example: Google using Linux in Android does not mean the user is any more free of advertizing and spying!)

But unless I misunderstand what this is for, I think the economies of scale needed are in way fancier things like combine harvesters. When farmers decry the rent-seeking of John Deere, I don't think they are talking about basic tractor-bulldozers? Conversely, as the other replies say, there is little issue with decades-old-style tractors, right?

What I really want to see is an open source Khrushchyovka. The worlds needs more cities, not villages.


I think you’re right, and doing some more digging this seems if anything a somewhat useless engineer-wouldn’t-it-be-cool type project that isn’t solving any of the real problems that people face. Sigh.


On the more positive side, maybe some things in here are necessary first steps, and best get to more useful things later building upon them. I am not sure, I didn't dig to deep yet.



I'm not sure if it counts as an 'excavator' (towed digger maybe?), but that is still pretty neat. Thanks for the link.


Not just Asia. Mahindra, an Indian concern (with PRC operating units), builds some tractors and trucks in Africa (I know of plants in at least Mali and South Africa) for various African markets.


There certainly seem to be.

https://www.alibaba.com/products/tractor.html?IndexArea=prod...

Now if only shipping were reasonable!


"Their part of the world" has had manufacturing since forever, it's not middle ages outside of the Global North: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tractor_manufacturers


I agree! I would love to see this extended to excavators and bulldozers, these are way overpriced.


At the holistic level, their impact on the ecology is still to be known though.


Living in South America all my life, and I know this is anecdotal, ecology is always second to economic progress.

You can't go to a [settlement] (https://sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/elpaiscr/2019/09/Asentam...) and tell them not to use certain tools because they might not be ecological.

I'm not discarding your concern though, I understand its impact is not known, I just wanted to say it likely won't be a factor in the decision-making of those that use this tech.


There's a well known correlation between economic progress and ecological protection. The wealthier a community, the better it can make good long term decisions about maintaining the ecosystems around it.

When people are struggling, they use whatever they can to survive. They'll burn wood indoors, and strip the wooded areas of all trees, use up as much groundwater through wells as possible, and so on...

Get rid of the do-or-die hard scrabble for survival and people can start being better stewards. It's the largely invisible, widespread, and long term effects, like leaded gas and co2 impacts on climate that require nation state intervention through science based policy.

For highly empowering things like this, the upshot is likely that even though the tech is not likely to be as clean and efficient as we'd want, it will enable individuals and communities to thrive and better their lives to the point that they can start affording long term ecological preservation.


That seems extremely recent, like last century only.

The correlation I see is the longer civilization has been in some place, the more arid that place becomes.

Applies to Africa, Middle East, Brazil, and so on.


I'm not sure we should be happy about adding many more potential petrochemical-consuming vehicles to the world


Man I remember reading about this in 2011 or so. I'm glad they're still doing well. It's an interesting project at the intersection of philanthropic eco-hippies and mechanical engineers which doesn't seem very common to me.

Of course, being older and wiser now I'm less excited about the fantasy of using my brains and grit to rebuild society after the coming apocalypse. And if you are a villager of some description trying to use machinery to improve your prospects you're probably better off buying something old and used, or cheap and Chinese. Over the last 10 years the number of (mostly Chinese) companies making okay-quality cheap industrial equipment of all types has grown massively, and I've seen this equipment being used more and more in the developing world. Cheap is relative, of course, and many places do not make it easy to buy anything due to payment infrastructure, shipping, and customs costs.

So on the one hand it's a bit silly for some guy in Missouri to even consider designing his own bakery oven when you can get them on Alibaba for $500. On the other, it's very cool and interesting, there's a lot to learn from the attempt, and there's a lot of actually useful designs already for certain situations. I wonder how much success they've had getting this information out to people who it could actually help?


> some guy in Missouri to even consider designing his own bakery oven when you can get them on Alibaba for $500

As someone who has worked in some parts of southern Africa decades ago, and who recently stopped buying off ali (for everything, but mostly beekeeping equipment) there is a Big Thing you are forgetting to tell: Right And Ability To Repair.

Secondhand nearly always means you can assure quality, because it has survived at least one owner. Probably decades of abuse and repairs. You can see where it was welded. You know it has survived years in heat, rain, mud and under stress.

You don't want that immersion pump of your irrigation, to break the moment you drove 150km home. Even if you can afford to buy 10 pumps and have 9 spares, you still need the time, travel and effort of replacing. Sometimes the Ali stuff is really good quality. Sometimes it isn't and there is no-way to tell.

As a beekeeper: having a hivetool break that moment the bees are becoming angry and you need to finish fast, is worth ten times that €18.00 I saved by ordering Chinese tools. Having a hive tip over because some chinese screws turned over and didn't hold a foot in place is worth a hundred times that €80 I saved by ordering a cheap Chinese knock-off.

I'm not saying Chinese fabrication equals bad quality. But I am saying that a lack of QA leads to varying quality. Which means it can be really good. But also that it can be poor. This downside risk is more than enough reason to often skip cheap Ali orders.


Not an important factor for many, but buying from a nearby supplier instead of shipping from other side of the globe is a lot better for the environment too, what our politicians should be incentivizing along with renewables.


I don't think the makers of this machine believe this is a viable solution for farmers right now, but they realize that "buy it cheap from China" is becoming more and more of a problem in the long run and something that needs to be fixed. We'll have to give up on the "if it dies, just buy a new one, it's cheap anyway" philosophy sooner or later.

I see this project more as an experiment on how to make a functional and durable machine that is fixable when it breaks.


As someone who has worked in agriculture their entire life, there is nothing cheap about farming equipment. Every year it gets more and more prohibitively expensive and experiences more and more vendor lock-in.

While this solution appears fairly rudimentary, I think there's a real demand for more simplistic, compatible, and capable farm machinery when combines are a million a piece and tractors are a quarter that.


A 28hp tractor tamed the world once upon a time. Back when a family could work their hearts out on a 100 acre farm.

A single family with a 28hp tractor cannot farm 1000 acres effectively. It's hard to find 10 families each with a 28hp tractor willing to go all-in to farm 1000 acres. And if you could, they'd get wiped out by the conglomerate that uses a stable of million dollar combines to farm 20,000 acres.

A California farmer doesn't feed a Central Valley community. An Iowa farmer doesn't feed all their townfolks. Their target market is the entire globe. Pigs to China, soy to Japan, barley to Germany, corn to Tunisia.

That said, I think you are right that there is a market for capable, compatible tractors. And also a market for 28hp tractors. In the auto world, Volkswagen and Toyota each make 11 million cars a year and even Suzuki makes 3 million. But there is still a place for Tata to make 1 million cars per year to meet a specific demand. If you are content to meet a specific need, and not driven to be top 5 or bust... If you don't even need to be top 20... There is a place where you could stay in business.


The problem is that this solution isn't even close to being realistic. 28HP engines are not created equal and this engine isn't anything like the old 28HP engines from tractors of yesteryear. The tires are wrong, hydraulic drive is wrong, no PTO yet, etc. Bolting tube together on a moving machine like this, WTF. The tube works free over time as it collapses which will cause play and egging of the holes. This is completely wrong. They need to go back and study the tractors built in the late 30s and early 40s and copy those. This is nothing but a mess. Are any of these people mechanical engineers who have built Ag equipment?


100% this. Early 20th century tractors are pretty damn simple. A big torquey engine bolted to a sturdy I-beam based ladder chassis, two big ass drive tires, two thin tires for steering.

I think they have designed a neat utility vehicle, forklift and loader, but it's not a tractor.

However, Marcin says they rigorously test all the equipment on an actual farm, and are quite familiar with tractor maintenance, so I don't think he's that far off base.


I agree wholeheartedly. Without the support of a dozen offspring helping out with 'chores' around the farm the lack of labour is a real constraint in rural areas. I absolutely agree that a 28hp motor is simply too small to be helpful on a commercial scale, but I was thinking more about the 3-4 pod versions that offered a bit more grunt.

Regardless, most of the engines on a farm are sitting idle for vast portions of the year (i.e. combines, forage harvesters, swathers, sprayers, etc.) so a modular unit that maximized year-round utility could reduce maintenance and downtime caused by corrosion and other problems inherent in idle machinery.

Diesel engines hate sitting for long periods without running, as well as dislike running under excessively light loads for their horsepower. Being able to spin up multiple pods to match a load is an interesting solution.


Right now, a cheap tractor from China is probably a lot more reparable (by you) than the more expensive alternatives. Sure, it will break sooner, but it will be built simple and without DRM'd electronics, making it relatively easy to repair.


Buy it cheap from China doesn’t mean it can’t be repaired. Chinese clone AK47s or outboard motors or trucks or tractors can go for decades with a skilled and pragmatic mechanic, one thing that third world countries excel at


I was following this project for a few years after 2011 and it seemed to pivot to like a weird homesteading thing. I'm glad it's doing the tractor again.


And what if all this Ali ovens are stuck offshore the port of Long Beach?


i work on heavy equipment such as tractors, diesel trucks and excavators in the USA. this is an excellent start, but its a long way from a tractor.

some of the pitfalls that need to be addressed:

"Modular Power Unit" is undefined. can i run it on white gas? diesel? kerosene? what is the engine displacement? air cooled or liquid? If we mean to say this tractor is all-electric, keep in mind most small farms arent equipped to charge anything more advanced than a cordless drill or flashlight.

Cab frame has no safety glass or panels, so the operator enjoys every rock and every tree branch :(. a shade canopy is a nice add as well.

no lights. this is a nonstarter for every farmer that wakes up at 4 am.

quick hoses are nice, but I cant find a PTO knuckle so its restricted to things like lifting and towing (and maybe ripping). this is okay, but for an un-weatherized vehicle ill need to use barn real-estate to store, its certainly lacking.


"Modular Power Unit" is a 28hp Briggs and Stratton Professional gas unit, per https://wiki.opensourceecology.org/wiki/Structural_Power_Cub... .

Overall, this site https://wiki.opensourceecology.org/wiki/Main_Page is much better than the linked one for overall information about this initiative, for example https://wiki.opensourceecology.org/wiki/Power_Cube_Design_Ra... .


Oh god that's so rough, it looks like they're (very poorly) using an angle grinder free-hand and an oxy torch to cut out their plates.

They'd probably find the tooling and jigs they need to do the job properly would be much cheaper and easier if they didn't go way overkill. This little engine does not require a huge 1/2" thick steel plate to mount it on.


> Cab frame has no safety glass or panels, so the operator enjoys every rock and every tree branch :(. a shade canopy is a nice add as well.

> no lights. this is a nonstarter for every farmer that wakes up at 4 am.

Not to dismiss those concerns but I would say they could be addressed in later versions of this machine. For lighting, after-market solutions or even duct taping a powerful flashlight or two would do the trick.

The market is that of farmers with little to no mechanization. The aim is to be made out of readily available materials and to be as simple to repair as possible.


> Cab frame has no safety glass or panels, so the operator enjoys every rock and every tree branch :(. a shade canopy is a nice add as well.

These were luxuries only our nicest tractors had growing up ~20 years ago. I imagine the market for an Open Source Tractor can similarly make do without.


Rocks and branches are a once-in-a-while problem. Dust is an everyday use problem, and in an era where everything is doused in pesticides and herbicides I don't think it's optional.


Are the people likely to use this already working unprotected around pesticides? If so, what difference would it make that they’re now sitting in a tractor? If not, why would having a tractor cause then to start? Or is your guess that they’re swapping from a tractor with protection?


I don't know; my neighbors are farmers and their tractors don't have cabins. I'm not saying it's healthy, just that different people place different emphasis on different features.

Having occasionally used a (cabin-less) tractor without power steering for years, I'd pick that over a cabin for instance.

Dust and pesticides can be worked around with masks, goggles or scarves when occasionally found around. A straw hat for sunlight. In any case, this is a base building block, people are free to design add-ons for it depending on their needs :)


To the extent that these things are unhealthy, it’s probably something that only shows up in aggregate. Individual health issues probably aren’t related back to x-icide exposure. At least I’ve never heard of such a thing and I come from a large farming community.


I don't think I'm claiming that the open tractor HAS to have a cabin. It should be an option, though. Possibly one with some positive peer pressure around it.

A box doesn't fix everything. You still have to get air into it from somewhere and it's all gonna come from outside. But sitting in a dust cloud is a little different situation than getting some dust through a vent. Especially if you're sweating like a pig the whole time.


It is an option. You're 100% free to bolt it on, just like with open source software: if a feature isn't provided out of the box you have the source.


Not sure, but we definitely made extensive use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers when I was growing up. Of course, to your point, that doesn’t mean that kind of exposure is safe.


Did your parents teach you to only spray on the upwind passes, or were you huffing *cides half the time?


I wasn't doing much spraying to be honest, but we usually waited for relatively windless days to spray (not for health reasons, but usually because we didn't want to roundup the neighbors' crops/lawns/etc).


Oh that's true, I know that and I'm not sure why I didn't think of it. Herbicide drift is a nightmare scenario of horticulturalists. In certain circles people plan out earth berms and wind breaks of sacrificial plants so their flowers and vegetables don't get hit. Most of us aren't brave enough to build something on the edge of farmland, let alone in the middle of it. But there's always some masochist who will try. 'We' don't have a very high opinion of farmers spraying on a windy day.

Similarly flatlander recreational/club bicyclists don't have anything nice to say about farmers spraying anhydrous ammonia on a windy day. Luckily didn't happen very often, and never up close (>400 yards), but that's still enough to really get your attention.


No. Professional farmers had enclosed cabs even around 1975.


The modular power unit is able to be swapped in and out of the various projects that require it that this team creates. Beyond that I don't know anything about it. There's also a compressed earth block machine and other things that use it. This team has been working on this since approximately 2011? It was started by a former nuclear engineer named Marcin Jakubowski. They're based out of Missouri and they dog-food their tools to build and maintain a small "village" there.

He had a ted talk sometime ago as well: https://www.ted.com/talks/marcin_jakubowski_open_sourced_blu...


I just wanted to comment today that beside OSS, SciHub and Library Genesis we need Blueprint Hub to move Civilizarion forward. Happy that some people work on it.


What are modern blueprints, PDF?

Sounds like a fairly simple project.


Maybe CAD models for 3D printers? Something like Thingiverse, at the very least.

I'd imagine you also need repositories of processes and assembly instructions.


All the designs we're drawing for https://wiki.replimat.org/wiki/Main_Page are done using our branch of https://github.com/nophead/NopSCADlib which contains some work yet to be upstreamed here: https://github.com/timschmidt/replimat


That seems like the kind of things we ought to know inside and out before starting.


It's been a while since I have read up on Open Source Ecology, but my memory is that modular power unit is a stand in for several options. One option is the power cube, which is a gas engine:

https://opensourceecology.dozuki.com/c/PowerCube

I believe that the creator of the project uses these, and has said that there are alternatives in case gas is not available.


As others have said, the "modular power unit" is most likely a "power cube" (in OSE terminology) [0]. From the "Product Ecology" section, it looks like it does enable the tractor, either through hydraulic or electric power. It looks like it's able to use gasoline and steam though not battery technology (LiPo, etc)?

If you were able to cheaply apply the upgrades you're talking about (safety glass, lights) for some nominal fee (maybe sub $500?) would this a viable alternative to other options? How many "quirks" are you willing to put up with before you throw up your hands and go with a more commercial option?

[0] https://wiki.opensourceecology.org/wiki/Power_Cube


> its certainly lacking.

I'm so old I remember Microsoft's white papers on how shitty Linux was, how it couldn't do this and that, etc.

But the cool thing was, like this tractor, you could fix it yourself.


Is there an issue tracker for this project? Sounds like it might need one along with your advice.


If you're capable of building one of these, I imagine rigging up a windshield and some lighting shouldn't be too hard.


Lack of 3 point hitch and PTO would rule it out completely for me.


We've some work on a three point hitch here: https://wiki.replimat.org/wiki/Three_point_hitches

Hydraulic motors with PTO splined shafts are widely available like this: https://www.surpluscenter.com/Hydraulics/Hydraulic-Motors/Ag...


They are terribly inefficient and who is going to be servicing all these hydraulics in the 3rd world? Every farming town in the USA has someone who can make custom hydro lines quickly. How many of those shops in Africa?


Petrol engines are inefficient. Solar panels are inefficient. Your and my metabolisms are inefficient. Suitability to purpose matters more in my humble opinion. Alongside modularity and reusability.

Please contribute anything you know about custom hydraulic lines to https://wiki.replimat.org/wiki/Main_Page - I will approve accounts for any hackernews folk who request one.


Go look at an old farmall or ford tractor and understand how they solved these problems 70+ years ago. Be careful thinking you are smarter than those engineers.


I really enjoyed working with grandpa's Ford 8N. Thanks for your input!


Great example. Compare the traction of your machine to an 8N. That engine will outlast 4-5 briggs engines easy (10K vs 2K hrs). They have an efficient gear drive as opposed to hydrostatic. Lots less maintenance and no need for gallons of hydro fluid. They have a robust 3pt hitch with an excellent PTO drive. They will drag your tractor up and down the field all day long. I really mean to be constructive, sorry if I am not sugar coating it.


I appreciate your enthusiasm. First of all, the design originates with Open Source Ecology, a sister project. I'm involved with Replimat. There's also Gridbeam, XYZ Cargo, Precious Plastic, and about a dozen other groups actively developing around the system(s).

I appreciate all your points about the sort of tractor best suited to your unique circumstances. I don't see anything about our communities designs which prevent you from constructing such a machine using our parts and techniques. I think it'd be a neat design to have among all the others which can be built this way!


For example, here is another design with it's own unique advantages and disadvantages, built using many shared components: https://wiki.opensourceecology.org/wiki/MicroTrac_v17.10


I would also note the N-series was one of the first tractors with a 3-point hitch that worked reasonably safely.


Those are nice-to-haves, but realistically most farming tasks can be performed without them.

Source: ran a 15-acre veggie farm for 2 years with nothing but a BCS walking tractor.


I priced out BCS and Grillo units when I first moved here and in the end ended up getting a subcompact hydrostatic tractor and it frankly has probably worked out better for me (6.5 acre property ... 1/2 acre vineyard/orchard, 1/2 acre garlic + market garden veggies).

It's likely because the importation of the BCS units into Canada just ends up making them and the attachments quite expensive. If I was in Europe, or even the US, I think they'd be more cost effective.

The tractor + loader ended up being a more useful overall implement because the loader is just invaluable on a rural property generally. So many things made easier by being able to move around heavy loads. And snow clearance with a 70" snowblower is an entirely different story than walking behind a 30" one. I used to have Gravely walk behind with a snowblower on it and my back suffered for it.

I have 3ph rototiller, snowblower, rotary mower, posthole auger, toolbar with discs, s-tines, wood chipper, and single bottom plow. And access to a bunch of other stuff from the neighbours. All of those things would be potentially cheaper for a BCS unit, but much harder to get, and less powerful. The used market for standard 3ph attachments is much easier to deal with rather than the niche walk-behind stuff.

On the lower end I use a wheel hoe. And I'm currently working on restoring and electrifying an old planet jr unit.

The BCS and Grillo units are really neat. But the small farm market isn't big enough for them here to get proper dealer support, used equipment supply, and deal with the importation issues. All of the neat attachments weren't available to me without dealing with Earth Tools in the US, with all the brokerage and customs and shippings issues that would come with that.


I'd largely agree, there's a reason 3PH(and SSQA) are ubiquitous. If you support that standard it opens up a massive market of compatible attachments.


The cab frame it's self has me a little worried as well. It looks like it is all bolted steel tubes and I am not sure how well those would handle a roll over event.


Not trying to be funny here, because I am not mechanically inclined, but isn’t that what a roll cage is?


No worries, I will try to give a better explanation.

There are two things I am concerned, the material and the design.

My main concern with the material would be how much shear the 1/4 thick mild steel tubes could handle the machine's weight.

My concern with the design is that it would not be sturdy enough to withstand the weight of the machine even if the steel technically could. The tubes at the top are fastened with one through bolt. Two if you count the bolt holding the lower pipe.

Contrast that with the arms of the machine. Double pipes and a(2, front and back) thick gusset plate at the pivot.

You see the same construction at the front of the arm, 2 gusset plates on either side of the pipes with 6 bolts on the arm side and 4 on the loading side. Also washer to spread the load on the gusset plates.

The arm/bucket is what does the work, so I expect it to be engineered to work.

The machine will not be picking up loads heavier than it, otherwise it would tip forward. So any load put on the roll cage will be greater than the load put on the bucket but I do not see the attention to detail on the roll cage that I see in the bucket/arm connections.

I could be wrong, I am not a design/structural engineer. I work as a production engineer but in a factory that builds highway construction equipment. The designs that I am used to seeing are single steel tube bent in an arch for greater strength. Also you are not allowed to weld or cut holes in the tube as that would compromise the strength.


Shear force seems likely a problem now that you mention it. Most cool, thanks.


> If we mean to say this tractor is all-electric, keep in mind most small farms arent equipped to charge anything more advanced than a cordless drill or flashlight.

Are you sure? In Switzerland, most farms I know have at least one dusty three-phase power outlet somewhere in a shed. Sometimes just 16A, but that should be sufficient for many use cases.


In the US, three phase power seems to be completely unavailable in rural areas, except in small pockets of industry.


So how do the power companies run electricity to those areas? They don't use DC, do they? Or do you mean individual houses are typically wired with just one of the phases?


US residential and rural areas typically have 120/240v split phase (single phase) 3-wire service, (2) 120v hots and a shared neutral. Commercial customers can usually get three-phase power.


Correct. It can be prohibitively expensive to have 3-phase power run to your house. Most consumers who need it, e.g., hobbyists, will use a phase converter.

The only person I know who actually had 3-phase power run to his house was using it for a ceramic kiln.


Doesn't a farm count as a small pocket of industry?

(Writing from Denmark, where my small apartment has three phase power. It's standard, I don't know why.)


Living on a rural US farm... In our area, 3 phase was not ran to our farm until we paid a large lump sum for the utility to run it from the nearest substation to us. Before that we only had single phase.


This brings back memories. I grew up around smallholding farming during comunist regime when time was plentyful, but it was near to impossible to buy tractor for personal use. Almost every familly owned DIY home-grown tractor built from some old diesel motor donated from who knows where and scrap metal.


I'm sorry, maybe it's just me--but none or almost none of these projects have actual plans to build them!

Everything is a wiki stub. Almost all the topics have unanswered questions going back to 2013. Some have a nice top-level "blueprint" looking infographic, and then absolutely zero details about building them.

I'm not sure how to use this project, although given my 40 acres and great desire to DIY, I should be a prime candidate.

Most of the stubs don't even have a summary yet! Let alone details.

If that stuff is there and I missed it, then the website UI is desperately broken.

As a for-instance, can someone find plans to build the LifeTrac6 Cab Frame? That's the very tractor linked here, and I can't see any real details. The linked page and its descendants seem to be a list of ideas that have absolutely no detail expressed.


This is pretty much the wrong website. You want this: https://wiki.opensourceecology.org/wiki/Civilization_Starter...


Many thanks! I felt certain I had to be missing something.

I wish it was easier to find this wiki from the site originally linked.


I went looking for specialty equipment for moving logs a few years ago while researching a restoration project. That equipment is super expensive, so I went looking for a DIY solution, expecting to find something along the lines of the construction philosophy of the OST project. I know my way around a wrench and bolting something together is no problem for me. Especially if I can take it apart again to store it, since I'll need this thing about .75 times a year.

I didn't find it. What I found was a handful of farmer types who had welded up their own solutions, who stopped mid-how-to to espouse the liberating power of learning to weld mild steel on your own. Paying someone to weld for you is super expensive, and alarmingly so if you live far out of town.

We know from CivE disaster/case studies that bolts through square tubing - especially through the ends of square tubing - have failure modes that are not obvious even to construction workers, let alone you or I. Might be that the OST project should be considering welding as a base skill for assembling a tractor by hand. Especially if anyone is going to make it earn its living by dragging around heavy, high-friction things like dirt.


They should definitely look into welding, they will need it at some point anyways for repairs. And a stick welder is both cheap and perfect use case for welding heavy metal frames. It could even be powered off the engine to be used in the tractor.


Refresh my memory. A stick welder is an electric arc welder that uses a thin rod of metal as the contact point and the rod gets consumed to make the bead, right? That sounds pretty reasonable.


Yes, it is very easy to use and you don't need bottled gas, just the welding sticks. The only real downside to it is it doesn't work as well with thin metal, but for an equipment frame that isn't a problem.


We build similarly at https://wiki.replimat.org/wiki/Main_Page where we are working to document each of the building techniques involved as well as some of the most useful things which can be built this way.


This is probably the coolest project I've seen in the two and a half years I've been compulsively reading every thread on this site


I genuinely wonder how it can compete against any existing tractors. You can order a brand new tractor for 5 grand [1].

Is this going to cost less or come with more capabilities?

[1] https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/4wd-wheel-farm-agricu...


Not only can you get a very cheap new one, but your village mechanic will know how to repair it because they’ll already have worked on dozens.

I know this project is really cool as an engineer, but engines and vehicles in all forms are pretty much a solved problem in the third world. Those guys can squeeze 50 extra years out of a van that we would take to the scrap, building new open source models really isn’t a priority


I started looking at this class of imported machines recently. What is the shipping cost/time on such units? What about availability of spare parts? Or the quality of the service/parts manuals? These questions are not easily answered on Alibaba, but a properly-done open source design that uses off-the-shelf parts should make them almost entirely moot.


Patents expire after 20 years or so. Why not just take a 25 year old tractor, 3d model it, make your small improvements and updates, and then start working on value adds like parts pipelines, data & gps driven agriculture, etc


Modeling a tractor in CAD isn't the issue. Manufacturing it is.

A 25 year old tractor design (probably out to 75+ year old tractors even) still has hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure and tooling behind it. Molds or dies for a single part can easily reach into 6 figures, without taking into account the $10 million injection molding machine.

The simplifications you could do would be limited, as every design decision affects the placement and access to a dozen other parts.

Take a part like this, which is for a Deere 750 (small tractor) released in 1989: https://www.compactractorparts.com/tractor-parts/john-deere/...

I could model that in CAD in under an hour. Lining up manufacturing is a minimum 12 month process with preexisting relationships, and would take upwards of $250k to get in the door. This also doesn't take into account the "societal collapse" angle - post-apocalypse there's no way to make that yourself, and manufacturers in China would presumably no longer be an option.


Then I’m unsure what problem the project is trying to solve.

We have a real problem today with affordability and right to repair. My wife’s family are rice farmers from rural Thailand. My father in law had tears in his eyes when I bought him a $25k basic Kubota tractor; his individual productivity went through the roof while the amount of backbreaking work he had to do fell. Small time agriculture does not pay enough for such folks to make such a purchase on their own, and a major repair could still be out of reach. I thought this project was trying to address these problems. I don’t see such people as having to tooling or time to build their own tractor.

As for “post apocalyptic”- I will band with others with guns and tractors and use our guns to protect our tractors; I’m not interested in building a road warrior tractor; I’m interested in easy to repair.


I think you've nailed the reason they have gravitated towards bolted tube frame design, despite the quite glaring mechanical downsides to that style of assembly. They are driving down the number of custom operations and shrinking the BOM as much as possible. Bolting on more struts is preferable to welding custom angle brackets (which would be more skookum) when that's yet another part you have to jig and fabricate yourself.


> I could model that in CAD in under an hour.

That's very impressive.


An open source foundry might be an interesting project.


It's not just about patents - it's about easy, cheap building with limited access to tools and materials.


If you go back in the Internet Archive to this site from 2016, it's much the same.[1] This project seems to have stalled before they published the design documents.

Here are their videos on Vimeo.[2] Most of the activity was 7-10 years ago.

If you want a cheap tractor, look on Alibaba. There are decent offerings around US$2000.

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20161207230929/http://opensource...

[2] https://vimeo.com/search?q=open%20source%20ecology


I remember being introduced to opensourceecology 10 years ago. At first I was very enthusiastic. However, it seems to have had a rocky trajectory, with many people coming, then leaving, and progress being very slow. And some critical thinking skills being missing in my opinion. For instance, instead of making a tractor from scratch, why not reverse engineer an existing tractor design, with all it's optimizations, and then re-optimize it for open source, repairability? Seems like nothing significant has happened on this project for the past 10 years.

Edit: this article itself is from 2013.


Is there more information on what the "power cube" is? I poked around the site and couldn't find details.


https://wiki.opensourceecology.org/wiki/Power_Cube_Design_Ra...

https://wiki.opensourceecology.org/wiki/Main_Page

Their current design revolves around a Briggs and Stratton Professional 28hp gas engine. 49M777 I think is the designation.


I'm assuming you found the page on the site but want more detailed prose on it? It's the second linked category on the homepage.

https://opensourceecology.dozuki.com/c/PowerCube


Yeah. Every link on that page is a stub. I was wondering if they listed the engine they've been using in the prototypes anywhere.


Awesome! It has always been my firm belief that the biggest and best improvement you can provide to poor communities is tractors and tools. It frees up tons of labor from excavation, farming, transport, and can be used as a power plant for many other uses be it through driven shaft or hydraulics or potentially pneumatic. You can use it to drill a well, or dig a foundation, endless amounts of human labor replaced by one man and relatively simple machine for our age.


Isn't this really a skid steer/wheel loader, rather than a tractor?


The core of the modern tractor is the "traction engine", an engine for pulling. By itself you could pull plows, disks, rakes, planters, etc, with the inconvenience of raising and lowering the implements manually.

Traction engines were not the first engines on the farm: prior to that, you could find steam engines on wheels that would be pulled by horses to different areas of the farm and fields to run belt-driven machines such as bailers or threshers, which were stationary -- you'd load hay into a baler with a pitchfork, and the machine would compact it into a bale.

Tractors absorbed this function with their own belt wheels or the PTO on modern tractors, which is used to power machines stationary or moving (modern bailers move around the field, but tractors will still be used to power a stationary grain elevator). They also added three point hitches and hydraulics to automatically raise and lower equipment.

But as long as it pulls, it's a tractor.


Yes it is. Even if it had a PTO, this vehicle won't do much agricultural field work, it will bog down. Tractors typically have much larger back wheels, usually weighted, and a larger engine.


Dovetails nicely with the whole Right To Repair shit that farmers are currently having to go through with John Deere.


I wonder why it's articulated.

Edit: drive shaft wear.

It just seems to be an extra complication and harder to steer if not hydraulic assisted.


Given they are using hydraulic motors on the wheels it could be easily converted to skid steer. The current configuration has very high ground pressure but low wear characteristics. Skid steer has high ground wear but supports the use of tracks which could reduce ground pressure and increase traction.


> the articulated joint that was present in LifeTrac I - to allow long-life on the shafts - which experience much less wear compared to skid steering


I wonder why the frame is made out of bolted beams with holes in them, are bolts and holed beams easy to find or something?

I mean I can imagine that if you have the tools to build those, you'd have a welder as well. Granted, welding might be a bit more challenging than cutting beams and drilling holes.


Perforated steel tube is a readily available material and a ratchet is a cheaper and much lower skill tool than a welder. Also seems like customization is one of the project goals.

I would imagine that if wanted to weld it instead the design would also work for you.


Where do you get 1/4 wall perforated tube? It sounds expensive compared to regular box tube straight from the mill. And each bolted connection made with graded fasteners is going to cost several dollars, which adds up very quickly.

A circular saw, a mag drill, and a stick welder could take you a long way on a project like this, and you could use regular steel plate, tube, angle bars, etc. I think a lot of cost and weight is being sacrificed in the name of "modularity", for questionable benefit.


For steel as thick as this, stick welding is very forgiving though. Big heatsinks, hard to melt through. Most people can probably learn to make (ugly but) strong enough welds in an afternoon.


They will look strong enough. Whether they really are strong enough or not is a completely different story and I guarantee that you won't learn that in an afternoon. Veteran of many thousands of welds here, welding is a real skill and with gear like this making a mistake could cause injury or death to operator or bystanders. Better make sure you know how to weld beforehand.


From what I remember from back when I first read up on this project: The goal is for as much of the construction to be done with simple tools and materials that can be stored long-term.

If you need to, hypothetically, bury your society-bootstrapping supplies, your wrenches and hole bar will probably survive. But a welder may not.


Fair enough, without electricity you might still be able to drill holes in things, it just takes a good while.

Mind you, I've seen some... interesting welders cobbled together, I saw one that was a load of wire wrapped around a rubber inner tyre. Here [1] is one made from a microwave transformer.

[1] https://www.instructables.com/Build-a-Microwave-Transformer-...


It's really, really, really difficult for me to imagine a "society-bootstrapping" event where conveniently dimensioned steel, diesel/gasoline engines and fasteners are readily available but thousands of old, easily repairable tractors are not.



It's conceptually gridbeam. https://gridbeam.xyz/

General construction kit for real world applications. In theory you could take a machine apart and use the beams for some other machine. A smaller kit could build any of the machine designs as needed.


It's surprisingly hard to find information about grid-beam online. I got this book years ago. Never really did anything with it, but it has a lot more examples: https://www.amazon.com/How-Build-Grid-Beam-Constructing/dp/0...

The problem with grid-beam is that it really only seems to make sense if you A) have lots of grid-beams in various sizes already, and B) are making, taking apart, and repurposing things frequently. Without A, making grid beams is a lot more work than just purpose-cutting your pieces, and without B, you don't really have a reason to drill all those extra holes.


I've built a ton of stuff with grid beam. I never drilled my own holes. For big stuff, like making office furniture [1], I buy "pre-drilled" aluminum beams from McMaster-Carr [2]. I would buy lots of long lengths, then cut down to the required size as needed. And years ago, I also "miniaturized" grid beam down to Lego-compatible, 3D printable components that I use for prototyping [3].

The grid beam book talks a lot about what you need to make beams from scratch. You don't have to do that. You can buy (or print!) beams and get to work right away.

[1]: https://twitter.com/hugs/status/707381021646323712

[2]: https://www.mcmaster.com/8809T7-8809T21/

[3]: https://bitbeam.org/


Hi hugs!

I've been working to document everything I've done with Gridbeam, and related tech here: https://wiki.replimat.org/wiki/Main_Page

I lived with Phil and RJ Jergenson for a couple years around 2012, tried to learn from their experience and mistakes. They weren't happy with 1ft lengths in every project, even though they were an improvement in reusability over all lengths free-for-all. I've since moved all the replimat designs to use lengths 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 only. Which allows for center pivots and divisible-by-two lengths whereas the Jergensons could only divide by two. We also hit countertop height a little better. Little tweaks.

I try to communicate with everyone listed in the "Friends" section on the right hand side of https://www.replimat.org/ regularly. I'm excited that things seem to be gathering steam for all of us.


This is very cool. Shame to see the original website is down though.



Punched metal tubing is very common and cheap.


Looks like it is made out of life-size meccano parts.


Yep: Meccano clones of my childhood weren't brightly colored, unlike what I see in search now—so I almost nostalgia'd all over myself from seeing that thing.

E.g.: https://rc-today.ru/UserFiles/Image/89/87/konstruktor_metall...


Huh. In the US, we had a copy of Meccano called Erector (which is what this project reminded me of). In 2000, Mecanno bought the Erector brand. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meccano


Ahh I was thinking about traktor the DJ software. The open source alternative for this would be mixxx: https://mixxx.org/


What would be the ballpark price of the materials for this?


Sorry, I don't see it. This tractor is too wide, has low ground clearance, too complex, hard to rustproof, seems to be hard to maneuver.


> This tractor is... too complex

Quite the opposite: It is incredibly _simple_, in that regular tractors need huge complex specialized infrastructure to manufacture, and this doesn't.

> too wide, has low ground clearance etc.

The shortcomings are due to this still being a prototype: The 6th iteration. And it's this way because it was easier and cheap to design and produce it the way that it is.

Now, let's say the current shortcomings are deal-breakers for 80% of potential users. Then you already have a tractor usable for 10% of people. In iteration 7 they'll address a few other issues, and still more in iteration 8 and you'll have something worthy of mass-production for a large fraction of users.

*Edit:* Well, apparently LifeTrac 6 is from 11 years ago! And there are newer iterations of it.


The ground clearance here is absurdly low. That seems like such a basic problem that it makes me wonder how practical this is.


This is truly mind blowing.

For some odd reason my mind kept the "Open Source" limited to digital tech spaces, but it's not!


another related term is Free Culture, in analogy to Free Software


Recent build is here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oY00KwaBbY. We're just getting started.


It is great that they can make this thing work.

It is, at the same time, a serious indictment of modern industrial society that they want to. Industrial manufacturing economics ought to be supplying tractors cheaply enough that there is no temptation to this.


The Open Source Ecology designs have always struck me as a great way of losing a limb.


I mean, that's industrial/ag equipment in general. The guards and warning labels tend to come later, after many, many injuries.


I hope to see a day when the essentials of human survival and living well are completely open sourced, and companies compete on producing the products from open sourced designs and processess.

Perhaps that will bring in the elusive utopia.


This is very cool. I wish I were more mechanically inclined. One of my fantasies is buying an end-of-lifed helicopter turbine and building a tractor around it, but I wouldn't even know where to begin.


I don't know enough to guess why this turbine is of particular interest to you--can you explain?

Is it highly powerful or something?


The power density is good, but the main appeal to me is the mechanical simplicity and that it can use just about anything that burns as a fuel.


How stagnant is this project? The videos I find on YouTube are 8 years old.


Pretty recent. See a more recent build from a few days ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oY00KwaBbY


Is there something equivalent to a small robot? An open source platform for an all terrain outdoor robotic platform would be pretty useful as well


Fantastic project, I can't make up my mind about whether I'm looking at a thing from the past or from the future.


Hell yeah! I have often thought about open source in the agriculture world. I would love to contribute to this space.


Who will implement self driving features?


No Diesel engine - fail. This will mot succeed in Africa or Asia for quite some time.


We need more projects like this.


This is a trend, not a fad.

A megatrend!


cool - looks like legos...


IMHO "open source" is not the right term for this because, besides sounding like it was created by people with a software-centric view, it legitimises the application of Imaginary Property laws to physical objects --- something that is a relatively recent phenomenon and one that I think should not continue. Perhaps "open design" or similar would be more representative of the intent.

For example, the automotive aftermarket is so prolific and complete that you can build an entire stereotypical mid-century car with entirely aftermarket parts, but I wouldn't call that "open source". People have also been making tractors out of car parts for a long time (there are some old magazines with plans for such), as well as fixing heavy equipment by making their own parts --- look at various YouTube channels for examples; and I don't think any of this is comparable, nor should it be, to the quagmire of IP laws that the software world is subjected to.

tl;dr: Good intent, bad naming and perhaps some ignorance of how the physical hardware world operates.


It's not just that, it's a deliberate dig against the current trend of farm equipment mired in opaque binaries, DRM, and OEM sensors, that require an OEM service tech to fix. Not for any mechanical reason, but because they restrict the diagnostic software.


This exists for mid-century tractors as well; eg Steiner sells new parts for old tractors.




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