CubeSpawn is an "open source" flexible manufacturing system.
We are currently designing its components in such a way as to make the system capable of making most of its own parts. (Recursive production).
We hope that people will be able to start with a nucleus of a few small, low-cost machines. People with those machines can then fabricate (using designs downloaded from a repository) (a) more complex tools and machines and (b) end-user goods, all at relatively low cost -- the cost of materials and energy and their own time.
A standardized "form factor" for PCs makes desktop computers far easier to put together and far easier to upgrade than the earliest computers, which were unique one-off custom devices.
Likewise, a standard for manufacturing equipment, such as CubeSpawn, is intended to allow a person to rapidly assemble a complete fabricating system out of discrete functions that plug together, in different sequences, to produce parts, tools and goods.
The basic CubeSpawn standard involves:
- A motor driven pallet transports workpieces between workcells.
- Power and data connections allow the workcells to be chained together in any sequence.
(Details are still being worked out -- what else needs to be specified so cells from manufacturers who have never even heard of each other can work together? What else needs to be left unspecified in order to allow and encourage innovation?)
One way a CubeSpawn system can lower costs compared to a highly customized manufacturing system happens when things need to change.
- design for maintenance, design for repair: it's easy to disconnect one cell, pull it out, and do normal testing, maintenance, and repair on it in isolation
- It may be possible for other cells in the assembly line to do at least some productive work while one cell is undergoing maintenance and repair.
- Alternative manufacturing systems often require the entire system to be completely turned off and disassembled during maintenance and repair.
- New innovations can be adapted to existing machines and processes -- reducing the cost of upgrading a machine.
- A library of parts and motion control will be stored in the system and distributed through the Internet, so making parts can be as automatic as possible.
While a single "universal" machine that can make a wide variety of parts may be "elegant", a variety of tools -- each one automated in a "cell", and each one optimized to do one narrow thing well -- may be a better approach to make a wider variety of parts.
- We expect many cell designers to design for recycling -- when a component wears out, its materials can be recaptured to make replacement components. This is a greener process that recaptures more wealth than the "throw the whole thing away and buy an entirely new one" paradigm.
- A particular CubeSpawn manufacturing system -- some particular arrangement of CubeSpawn cells -- is designed to build some particular tool or machines, or perhaps a few dozen copies of some particular end-user good. Once those have been made, the cells can be disassembled and rearranged to build something else. Any cells that are not currently in use can be sold off or easily stacked and stored.
- official site: http://cubespawn.com/
- mailing list: http://groups.google.com/group/cube-spawn
- We occasionally discuss CubeSpawn on the RepRap discussion forums.
- The earliest proposed CubeSpawn cell designs showed 600mm cubes with 25mm T-Slot extrusion: a CNC lathe, a 3-axis CNC mill, and a RepStrap fused filament fabrication device.
- CubeSpawn is one of the earliest projects supported by OHANDA, the Open Source Hardware and Design Alliance. OHANDA: "Open Source Flexible Manufacturing System"
- Google Sketchup: CubeSpawn 600x40mm + 600x25mm bare frames