How does open hardware improve our lives? What are progressive engineers currently working on?
We are dependent on machines and technical equipment, from power generation and industrial agriculture to the production of high-end technologies. But when we take a critical look behind the dazzling facade of 21st century industrial society, we notice that the processes of technological development are far less modern than they seem. The foundations are being laid for the modern and sustainable development and distribution of hardware — open hardware. Inspired by the collaborative development processes of open source software, mechanical engineering is now facing a radical change that will affect all areas of life.
Recently i attended the “BAC21: Energy and Open Hardware”-Workshop” in Brussels, from 11.11. until 13.11.2016. Here is my report about that..
Previous history: In the late summer of 2015 the innovationcamp POC21 happened during 5 weeks in the Chateau de Millemont nearby Paris, with the goal, to bring together 100 makers, designers and innovators for developing the blueprints for a sustainable society as a proof of concept
The POC21 was a so far unique event, but it was also a departure that provided a seed, which now starts sprouting. Therefore the BAC21-Workshop can be seen as a kind of follow-up event, where some of the POC21-attendees and their projects participated, amongst other persons like me and some OpenHardware-protagonists and engineers from the local Brussels FabLab- and university-environment. Also the event was financed through funds from a POC21-budget.
For using the small time period of the workshop in a most effective manner, the focus was set a priori on OpenHardware-Eneergy-projects. Some of the POC21-projects and other sustainable Openhardware-projects have more or less directly something to do with collecting and storage of energy, so we tried to identify the common elements and formulate strategic targets for their common needs.
This should lead us to an approach with especially one thing in mind: A cross-border collaboration, which bundels the menpower and skills of the individual teams in an optimal way.
So, as one important part of the workshop, we tried to create a theoretical framework and to define some common basics and standards, eg. which kind of connectors and plugs are suitable for our needs. The attendees brought several appropriate products with them, which now became analyzed and compared in terms of their performance (how many amperes), aspects of safety, functionality (hot-pluggable), availability and price.
Apart from such detailed questions we discussed also a superordinate concept with the working titel “Open Source Energy Mesh”. This refers to the idea of a decentral and intelligent lowvoltage-DC-grid, which should be specifically dedicated, developed and optimized for the combination with renewable energies.
A similar proposal already was suggested 3 years ago by Alex Shure at OpenSourceEcology Germany (project “DiVER“). He recently reworked and refined this and gave it the new name “Open NanoGrid.“.
An approach that even goes beyond that was presented at the BAC21 by Martin from LibreSolar. He introduced us into some possible variants of OpenSource-EnergyMesh-topologies and compared their pro’s and con’s. Afterwards the group was able to work out, which version is favourized as best suited common standard. This turned out to be a so called “Signal-Bus-topology”, that is characterized by combining the sources (Akku, PV) with a DC/DC-converter to reveal an independency towards different voltage levels, so that the grid offers a unique Voltage-level in a range about 48V.
Since it should be an intelligent grid, the sources as well as the consumers must be enabled for decentral communications, to provide an intelligent Load-Balance-management and priorization.
So we evaluated some different data-transfer-protocols and bus-systems and agreed in the end on the CAN-bus, which offers high data-transfer-rates and most sturdy robustness (it is therefore often used within automotive electronics).
At the beginning of the event all the projects were presented, so we got an overview on their recent development-status.
I (Oliver) had my Zinc-Air-cell and the Solarbox with me and a new, smaller SolarBox-version which i had quickly assembled in the days before the event.
If you consider all these projects in total, you will recognize the common need for an OpenHardware-Charge-Controller with integrated balancing (BMS) for Lithium-batteries. This is also needed within the OpenEnergy NanoGrid for a safe use of such batteries.
So its a good point to start with and thats exactly what Martin is doing by the LibreSolar-project, which aims to develop a 48V BMS.
He showed us the first pcb-prototypes, fresh from the forge but already up-and-running. Its a modular system, consisting of a balancer-board which is based on a STM32F072 32-bit MCU with a BQ67940-balancerchip and an integrated CAN-interface, plus a separate power-module, that allows the charging and discharging being controled by N-Channel-MOSFETs in high-side-configuration.
This charge-controller is comparable to the SBMS4080, which i use in the SolarBox, but offers the additional advantage of being able to handle 48V.
The BAC21 took place on different locations, so we had the chance to become acquainted with different FabLabs in Brussels, including the Velo M^2, which also can be used as kind of mobile micro-FabLab.
The event started on Friday at the OpenFab, one of the first FabLabs in Brussels. The OpeFab is maintained by Nicolas and Xavier and offers a cozy atmosphere and a rich FabLab-typical equipment. Here the projects were introduced followed by an entry into the theoretical part of the course.
On Saturday we continued with a more practical part by working on some detailed challenges of the projects.
Therefore we went to the Micro-Factory by Gilles and Rupert, which offers a 800sqm area, containing enough space to include a large and well equiped woodworking compartment and another one for metal-works with big power-tools.
Of course the time was to short (as usual ;)) to fullfill all the tasks we had on our agenda, but that doesnt matter. Some work was done at the DC-converter of the generator-module of the Velo M^2. It is part of a fixture which allows to clamp a bicycle into it and then producing electric energy by pedaling. A well-trained bicylist to generate more than 100 Watts. This doesnt seem to be that much at the first view, but makes in fact sense in mobile applications, e.g., you can drive a little openair-cinema with it.
On Sunday a meeting happened at Hackistan, in the Galeria Ravenstein. Its an architectonically impressive building with a shopping-mall-passage that leads to a multi-storey rotunda with a light dome, with a fassade in sandstone and marble optics.
Hackistan is a group with wide-spreaded networks and a broad range of projects, with ecological sustainability as a common denominator, similar to OpenSourceEcology. Their location in the Galeria Ravenstein is not a conventional FabLab, but the rooms can be used also as showroom and for presentations and classes. But with joining some tables one can create a bigger working area which is appropriate for smaller works, like our electronics workshop.
The last hours were extensively used, to extend and refine the theoretical part so we ended up with the good feeling of having made a great step forward and created good conditions for the upcoming cross-border collaborations. A further meeting is planned for the next springtime.
Finally, i want to say thanks and much kudos towards Yannick, for putting great efforts and work into organizing the whole event. Yannick is a kind of sovereign force and a calming pole in the background, which unites all the strings and loose ends and has been taken care for the whole schedule and flow of the BAC21 was running well and fine balanced. Beside all the technical lessons there was also a little cultural programm for us, like visiting the top-notch scene-pubs and bistros, underlined by interesting info about the Brussels city itself and especially about the local FabLab- and OpenHardware-scene.
To date people know about Open Source mostly from the software development. We want to go one step further into Open Source Hardware and the flourishing of an Open Source Society. For that we are searching for people who want to live out the open source idea in a community. For example machine building, electrical engineering and farming. Every aspect that contributes to the creation of a sustainable society should be covered. Such collaborative work will boost much quicker the local economy. In the US there is already a forming model community, Factor E Farm, researching renewable energies, building houses with self-built machines and documenting their progress openly in Internet.
We want to get people together who have the skills or just the desire to build lifetime machines, houses, thriving eco systems and healthy human relationships. If you want to participate, send us a message in the open Google Group.
The location should have space for organic farming and there two possibilities for this:
Start on land from scratch, which could be intensive and time consuming
Join existing community or a small town where people are already living sustainably to some degree and are enthusiastic about the free sharing of knowledge.
If you would like to offer such a land or live in such a community, send email to Nikolay: nikolay.h.georgiev at gmail
We are documenting the OSE Community development in our Wiki.
We will get different movements together in Betahaus, Berlin. Every movement will make a short presentation and after that there will be a short discussion. So far OSE Germany, Sourcefabric and MakerLab have confirmed. There are two more open slots for movements working as Start Up, Commons, Hacker Spaces, Social Business.
OSE Germany would be happy to participate, learn about the other projects and see how we can organically support each other. Everyone is welcome to come.
The most important goal of Open Source Ecology is creating an open source economy. Economy in which people are creating, improving, open sourcing and sharing economically significant information, products, processes and ways of living. The time is ripe and we need to enable the participation of more people so that this common wealth be created and distributed to as many people as possible. To enable this we need to create an open network of diverse groups of people, organizations, companies and universities, in the villages and in the cities, who are organically working together.
As a network it is important to consider that the work being done by the people in and outside of the network is the most important one! We will be working with different organizations and we don’t want to get into identity conflicts stopping the creation and distribution of the common work. We want to unite different people and organizations in the creation of the common wealth.
We believe that everyone of us can contribute a lot – young people, schools, teachers, students, professors, grown-ups, elders, organizations, companies and others. Everyone can participate in the network, propose and start projects. Organically people within and outside of the network will help each other.
In the next few days we will create the initial technical infrastructure for the network and explain how people can participate.
Paradigms are shifting and new practical solutions are needed. This year we want to start an Open Source Ecology (OSE) community in Germany and we are looking for a Dedicated Team to make this happen.
The people involved in the project will be sharing openly and for free economically significant information. We want to open source the ecology of the environmental, societal and technological systems so that we contribute directly to the creation of an open source economy – an economy that optimizes both production and distribution, while providing environmental regeneration and social justice.
We start with the technology needed for the creation of a small scale civilization with modern comforts – the Global Village Construction Set and other relevant tools. From tractors, wind turbines to cars. Every technology will be developed with values like modularity, simplicity, lifetime design, low-cost, closed loop manufacturing, Do-It-Yourself, flexible fabrication and high performance. We want to open source the whole lifecycle of each technology – from its parts sourcing, fabrication, use, maintain and repair to its reuse and recycle. We will open source also our ecological food production, housing, workshop constructions and business models – our complete economy. All this economically signicant information will be saved digitally on the Internet as text, manufacturing files, pictures and videos so that we distribute it not only to our current generation, but to all other future generations on Earth – who can use it and build upon it! We are looking for the pioneers to join us in this endeavor!
Our first main goal is to establish the initial Development Team dedicated to create the community in 2012. The Development Team is open to everyone who works on the creation of the community and has a specific group of people, the Core Team, who will start up and develop the community no matter where or how. We would need help with all areas of community creation and development: organization, communication, land search, ecological housing and workshop architecture and construction, fabrication, engineering, mechatronics, permaculture and organic farming, business, law, social, financial etc.
We have laid out an initial Roadmap. In January we will connect with a lot of people and learn about each other and the possibilities to start the community. Visits are planned in Frankfurt and Berlin. The Roadmap will be expanded and become more concrete as we grow.
Why Germany? The people in Germany can and will play a vital role in the OSE development in Europe and the world. In Germany there are very good engineers, most people are well financially and here is one of the best sustainability and open source cultures in the world. It is a perfect place to start an OSE community.
You can help us full-time, part-time or however you can. Let’s connect and learn about each other:
for direct contact send email to Nikolay: nikolay.h.georgiev (at) gmail [dot] com
It is long-time since our last report. We made few mistakes. Our major mistake and obstacle is that we are still very few people working on the active tasks. Our goals are too important and impossible to be carried out by just 4-5 people, most of whom are working only in their free time. We need to find more people and liberate the time of the people who are contributing most to the project. This is the case with the wind turbine and with the creation of the association, where I and Thomas spent about 4 weeks to clear out what is an association in Germany, how it works, how can we do it in the open way we want it, legally, and write the constitution. If we had professional support we could squeeze this time to 1 week! Currently we still need a professional lawyer to give us feedback on the constitution. If you know somebody let’s connect.
Another mistake we made was that in some cases we didn’t act on our priorities. To fix that we created the OSEG Board where we show all the areas we are working on, like publicity, organizational development and so on, and their corresponding priorities, tasks to be done and tasks done. You can see the OSEG Board in the Wiki. It is still under development but the major functionalities are there.
We plan to start fundraising for the wind turbine. We are looking for a fundraiser, who understands the Open Source Economy, has the same values and wants to make long-term sustainable solutions a reality. Any connections to such people would help us immensely. This week we will improve the communication and website for that.
Another effective help for the fundraising would be an already existing association which can receive the donations for us and give them further to the project.
We improved our communication on the Open Source Economy and our Values in the Wiki. This week we will concentrate on communicating Why we care about this work and what are the implications. In my speech at the KarmaKonsum conference I communicated mostly about What we are doing, thinking that people can understand the reasons and implications, but then I got the feedback that this wasn’t the case and this week I will spend more time on that.
This will be also my preparation for the Transition Towns conference from 21-23. September in Witzenhausen, Germany. Transition Towns are open network where people self-organize in the cities and towns to localize the economy. Goals very similar like ours and we will be working together. You can support the Transition movement by donating here.
Our responsibilities are growing and people with experience in PHP, CSS, WordPress, Wikimedia and phpBB can help us tremendously with the Wiki, theme design and other software tasks. For more information, please contact Nikolay. Thank You!
The OpenEcoLan Munich is the first free Workshop of Open Source Ecology Germany (OSEG). OpenEcoLabs are like FabLabs, community operated workshops in which Research & Development of Open Source Hardware and Machines is possible. In this way we adapt and live the Open Source Culture in the real world. Through the different OSEG projects, developed decentralized and on site in the OpenEcoLabs, we are creating step by step an Open Source Economy, an economy that optimizes both the production and distribution of goods, machines and hardware, while providing environmental regeneration and social justice.
Everyone is warmly welcome to participate in the OpenEcoLab’s projcets or to start their own Open Source projects in the workshop. Most importantly is always to have fun and the motivation to do something good and meaningful. Especially engineers and hackers from Munich are warmly welcome to visit the OpenEcoLab. We believe you will be inspired! 🙂
Currently we are searching for an appropriate place with a workshop. Our search criteria are:
It should be in or near Munich – best would on a (small) farm
It should be easily reachable by S-Bahn/Bus/U-Bahn, best would be to the north of Munich
It should have a big workshop (100qm+ hall would be great)
If there is a land nearby that could be used by us and that could be cultivated or to place a trailer: Outstanding!
A stream would be great, groundwater and well would be awesome
Strong power connection 400V (3-phase current) + 230V is a must
Running water (cold) is a must
Internet connection is optional – if absent, we will make it.
What we are witnessing is not just a company sponsoring people working on a cause, but mutual support through direct human relationship based on common values and vision! This is perfect representation of what we want to achieve with OSE Germany – healthy human relationships mutually enriching each other and the society.
velaia GmbH is a real example for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and we invite other companies to support us. We have professionals who could increase their productivity and contribution to the open source product development and responsible companies can enable this. Please contact Nikolay Georgiev for more information.
Platform AVR (Arduino) or MSP430 Value Line or another low-priced alternative (chipKIT?)
Language C / Assembler, source code will be licensed under CC-BY-SA in our git repository.
Development environment either Arduino (32kb Flash, 8bit MCU) or Texas Instruments MSP430 Value Line LaunchPad (16bit MCU). Wilssen consists of one or more microcontrollers and digital and analog electronic components, which can be populated if needed
Energy monitoring with Shunt+OpAmp or ICs an ADC/SPI of more phases (cost report)
Voltage monitoring of all phases (True RMS, option for galvanic isolation)
Option for Waveform Sampling
NRF24L01+ 2.4Ghz radio communication (best with Mesh Network)
Logging on MicroSD
RGB LED PWM control
Charging logic limited to 4 NiMH cells / 1 gel battery (best with Delta-Peak disconnection)
If you can help or suggest improvements, please contact Alex Shure.
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