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The Fabbersmith

October 6, 2011

In the beginning there were wood and stone tools.  One man could make anything humans could conceive of.  Then we discovered metal.

Metal was a wonderful thing, much easier to form, and for centuries, it retained the one man connection, albeit with a much larger capital investment in tools.  It lent itself to scaling, and even ancient civilizations discovered and took advantage of that.  And then we invented the machine.

The machine had been in progress for millenia, and small ones were actually common–wagons and plows are very simple machines, but only in the 1700s were larger, complex, and powerful machines invented, usign first water, then steam power.  This unleashed a torrent, millions of tons of steel were smelted quickly and easily, and the machine eventually spelled an end to the “smithy” in the village, and the small scale builder.  Today we buy what we need at Wal-Mart or a dozen other retailers, everything from a cup to a car.  Industrialization introduced economies of scale that could not be matched.

Industrialization created the seed of it’s own destruction however.  The massive assembly lines took time and energy to reconfigure–best to build a prototype first, to see how it would work out.  Problem was, you had to revert to the one man manufacturing shop for this work.  This became a significant part of the cost of an object.  In striving to reduce this cost, industry created tools and machines to “rapid prototype” the product.  Unrelated, mass information transfer was created, peaking in the internet and the ability to exchange anything in digital format almost instantaneously and in infinite amounts.

In creating these “rapid prototypers” they created the ability to go around the assembly line and create things as needed on the small scale.  In fiction and the inner circles, these devices became known to some as “fabbers.”  technology continues it’s end run, and will produce machines to finish off the assembly line for most things.  Plastics were first, soon metal, semiconductors, concrete, and large scales will yield.  For most things, the handful of machines will fit into a large shop, if not a small shop.  The assembly line won’t die overnight, if at all, but 90% of thier production is becoming obsolete.  a man with a box and pan brake, a fused deposition printer, some etching supplies and a few generic electronic components could build a stereo.  Exactly as his customer wants it, his skill could make it comparable in cost and quality to high end units that would fit the price he would charge.

Thus the “fabbersmith” is being born.  The fabbersmith is a specialist in creation.  He and his machines can potentially make anything desired, as desired.  The assembly lines will abandon all but the most generic products, and become robotized rooms producing that which the smith can’t compete with.

The fabbersmith uses open source technology to minimize personal investment in technology and maximize his benefit.  This blog is intended to document the technology and it’s development, and occasionally turn a box inside out using a head or two as a hammer.  Some politics will be covered, since laws can affect how technologies can be used, for those who care.  The fabber movement ties in with resilience movements, small business, and liberty.  Articles on all and links to blogs discussing them in detail will be linked and written.

A wiki will also be done when I learn enough to set it up, allowing easy documentation of other stuff.  The goal is to document processes for going from raw materials(potentially literal dirt or recycled material) to a finished product, and then the machines to accomplish that process.  Online, open source, no one will be able to subvert or control.

The fabbersmith may remain in a niche, with a small number doing a few jobs.  I hope eventually though that they will spread themselves to be in every city and town, providing their services and enriching their communities.

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