Why Machine Tools?
Look around you. Almost every manufactured product that is made of metal is a combination of parts that have been machined (castings, screws and bolts) and sheet, bar and tubular metal that has been welded, bent, rolled or spun into a needed shape.
A group of specialized open source machine tools can do much more. The MultiMachine (and the Concrete Lathe) can be easily built in dozens of special versions that are specially built to do just a single type of metalworking job. If these special machines were grouped together and driven from a common power source, they could be used in a form of developing-world mass production, whether in a rural village or an urban slum. And, they can form the basis of a trade school to train the next generation of mechanics, artisans and machinists!
Most of these machine versions could be built with just one or two broken vehicle engines, a piece of pipe, a few feet of steel bar, a sack of cement and a few easily made zinc/aluminum castings. Our other designs — also cheap to build — solve different problems: the Treadle-Powered Generator will turn human legwork into electricity for cell phones and LED lighting, the Open Source Drill will cut holes in hard steel, and the Universal Hub (the “Miracle Machine”) allows artisans to attach wood parts to a steel shaft (critical for repairing farm equipment).
Jobs and Economic Opportunity
Across the developing world, in crowded slums and tiny villages, poverty traps millions in their circumstances. Country after country is flooded with young people without opportunity, whether in the Gaza Strip, the slums of Rio or in rural Kenya. Young men in particular need jobs, for both economic and practical reasons — under-occupied young men are an ingredient for social instability (they’ll always find some kind of trouble to get into).
But flooded with cheap goods from the industrial world, local companies can’t compete and hence can’t employ. My answer: start from the bottom up. Give people the information they need to create their OWN tools and build (and repair) their own agricultural, household and even light industrial goods. And, design the instructions in such a way that they can use materials at hand just about anywhere on the globe, from concrete to the engine block of a junked car. The results can run a metalworking business, a trade school, or a village shop…and give people economic power in the process.