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R. Vallance*, S. Kiani†, and S. Nayfeh‡
Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Kentucky

Open Design Foundation, Inc.

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


In this paper, we discuss open design of manufacturing equipment as an approach to the
design, test, and continuous improvement of modular and reconfigurable manufacturing
equipment. Open design fosters collaborative efforts by providing a framework for freely
sharing information such as design documentation and performance data. This paper
presents the principles of open design by introducing the Open Design Definition, outlining
the requirements for license agreements, and illustrating the application of open design with
two current projects. The first project is the open design for a linear positioning stage
intended as a foundational element in modular machines or machine tools. The second
project is an aggregate machine being redesigned and reconfigured for micro EDM. Open
design may become a beneficial alternative to proprietary development of machinery and
manufacturing processes, especially in core or foundational elements of agile systems.

KEYWORDS: open design, agile manufacturing, modular machines, reconfigurable


Recent advances in Information technology (IT) and networking now enable corporations to
exchange and synchronize information regarding design and manufacture, enabling
designers and manufacturers to reduce the time between product conception and full-scale
production. Designers routinely practice concurrent engineering, use modern computer-
aided design (CAD) and engineering (CAE) software, and employ rapid-prototyping
processes. Manufacturers routinely operate with computer-numerically-controlled (CNC)
processes, flexible production systems, cellular manufacturing, and just-in-time (JIT)

Despite these crucial improvements, the specification, design, fabrication, start-up, and
validation of automated manufacturing systems remains a major barrier to dramatically
reducing time-to-market. To address this issue, we often emphasize a need for agility, the
ability to rapidly adapt or reconfigure production systems. Achieving agile production
systems requires a new style of manufacturing equipment and processes. Equipment must
be modular, easily reconfigured, and computer controlled through standard interfaces.
Designing, characterizing, and using a new generation of manufacturing equipment remains
a formidable challenge to implementing agile systems in industry.

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accuracy.g. experiments.In this paper. The scientific method advances models for natural phenomena through hypotheses. FEA analyses. and a handful of Free Software businesses were successfully established. vary the experiment. Free or Open Source software facilitates continuous improvement by sharing. precision. Furthermore. especially in core or foundational elements of an agile system. like "freedom of speech. Sharing information enables other scientists to reproduce experimental results. • the freedom to modify the software to suit your needs. yields) are freely shared. and continuous improvement of modular and reconfigurable manufacturing equipment. The scientific method requires an ethic for sharing hypotheses. and • the freedom to distribute modified versions of the software (either gratis or for a fee). experimental setups. simulations) and performance data (e. anomalies. or continue the scientific effort. and artifacts produced using original or modified documentation can be distributed. On these principles. Stallman proposed that Free Software should provide the following liberties to software developers and users: • the freedom to run the software. CAD data. By the mid 1990s. Open design enables collaborative efforts by providing incentives and methods for freely sharing information. The concept of Open Source software is often attributed to Richard Stallman. Like the scientific method. Free Software treats source code like other forms of scientific knowledge by guaranteeing that source code is publicly available to anyone who wishes to use or modify the source code for their own purpose. spreadsheets. If the modified design is distributed or artifacts are sold for profit. validation of hypotheses. reliability. experimental results. Page 2 of 12 . Examples of commercially supported Open Source applications include the LINUX operating system. Stallman established the GNU project at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Lab in 1984 and later established the Free Software Foundation." This development model has been in widespread use among computer programmers around the world since the early 1980s and gained commercial recognition during the mid 1990s [Raymond]. Open design integrates conventional design techniques with a new perspective on sharing of information and collaborating. the Apache web-server. the documentation can be freely modified. This approach may become a beneficial alternative to closed machinery and manufacturing processes. many programmers recognized the benefits of Free Software development. we present open design of manufacturing equipment as a new approach to the design. • the freedom to redistribute copies of the original software (either gratis or for a fee). then design documentation must be publicly disclosed.g. Free Software is free in the sense of liberty and not gratis. GNU and the Free Software Foundation develop and distribute several successful applications (for fee and free). Design documentation (e. who began advocating Free Software in the early 1980s. and theories that might progress to laws. "Free Software". for any purpose. or "Copyleft. not free beer" [Stallman]. and the Mozilla web-browser (formerly Netscape). test. and even expenses. BACKGROUND AND PRIOR WORK The principles of open design are derived from a development model known in the software industry known as "Open Source".

John Hall. and even the development of standards. To eliminate this confusion. and sponsor projects. for general information and links to project web pages. Additional services include basic tools for online collaboration such as an email-based list server with archiving system and a product data management system (PDM) for exchanging data.However. Free Software struggled for acceptance because many mistakenly confused liberty for gratis and thought that Free Software could not be sold for a fee. The ODF seeks to support open design. open design seems to oppose the maintenance of intellectual property or trade secrets. and so they Page 3 of 12 . Sam Ockman. The ODF also provides instructional documents for techniques used in open design. access to specific software should not prevent any designer or manufacturer from leading or contributing to new projects or building an openly designed artifact. The principal purpose of intellectual property is to promote the development of technical innovation for the benefit of society. OPEN DESIGN FOUNDATION Recognizing that mechanical design might benefit from a similar open exchange of information. the authors established the Open Design Foundation (ODF) as a non-profit corporation in 1999. open architecture. OPEN DESIGN DEFINITION AND LICENSES Open design is easily confused with public domain. evaluate open design licenses. Chris Peterson.opendesign. The first difference between open design and the public domain is the requirement to share documentation for a modified design if any embodiment of the modified design is redistributed for profit or gratis. a group of industry leaders including Todd Anderson. the ODF recognizes the need for foundational infrastructure projects. patents grant exclusive rights to the inventor for a set period. and anyone or organization can use the invention for their purpose or profit. corporations seeking profit through limited-use licenses were slow to accept it as an alternative business model. Outwardly. with the intent that the inventor will commercialize the technology for profit. Larry Augustin. The ODF maintains the Open Design Definition and evaluates license agreements suitable for use with design documentation and manufactured artifacts derived from open design projects. which include a web site (http://www. For instance. and Eric Raymond adopted the term "Open Source" on February 3. After the exclusive right expires. In exchange for disclosing an invention. the invention becomes available within the public domain. It is important to recognize that open design is more than a forum for promoting design in the public domain. In addition to these services. distribute documentation for open designs via the Internet. Most machine elements and even entire machines are available in the public domain. The ODF conducts activities primarily through Internet services. The second difference is that documentation is generally not available for reusing public domain designs. but open design licenses have been designed to allow “proprietary” and “free” subsystems to be integrated harmoniously. This ensures that early contributors to open designs are always guaranteed access to revised versions. These projects can help reduce barriers to participation in open design projects.

org). be made publicly available. papers. For software. we follow the method used successfully by the Open Source software community.openoffice. Following their approach. These licenses are well established and maintained by the Free Software Foundation.g. Œ anyone is free to distribute the original or modified designs (for fee or for free). open design requires that the complete documentation for the design be publicly disclosed. First. Œ anyone is free to use or modify the design by changing the design documentation. and bearings). The governing standards are written by experts in the technical area. Second. However. License agreements ensure that the freedoms described in the Open Design Definition are protected as the design is modified and redistributed. native solid model files). We believe that open design may accomplish de facto standards in aggregate machinery. and Œ modifications to the design must be returned to the community (if redistributed). we have written a living document (titled the Open Design Definition) intended to serve as the standard for suitable license agreements [ODF]. including the modules and the interface. Many machine elements within the public domain are specified by national or international standards (e. not just the interface between modules. This approach has produced many successful and necessary standards for essential machine elements such as ABEC bearings and NEMA [NEMA] motors. gears. fasteners. any individual or organization using or modifying an open design must agree to the terms specified within an Open Design license: Œ documentation of a design is available for free. Open architecture refers to systems composed of independent modules that mutually operate according to standard interfaces between the modules [Koren]. license agreements provide for adaptations. the recommended licenses for open design depend upon the particular aspect being licensed. it is less appropriate for standardizing complete machines.g. Open design eliminates this by providing documentation in its original form (e. Open architecture requires that the interfaces’ standards be available for implementation by suppliers or system integrators. Because design encompasses more than just hardware. or module suppliers. enhancements. Anyone is free to use on open design as a functional element of a proprietary or non-proprietary system as long as the open design element is clearly identified. system integrators. where the publicly available documentation serves as the standard. It is the license model used for projects like Sun’s sponsorship of OpenOffice (http://www. This document serves as the standard by which Open Source license agreements are measured. we recommend the Free Documentation License [FSF(a)]. or drawings. While this type of standard plays an essential role in machine elements. The principles of Open Source software are established in a document titled the Open Source Definition [OSI(a)].must be reverse engineered. which also originated Page 4 of 12 . For documentation such as written reports. or modifications to any portion of the design. Open design differs from open architecture in two fundamental ways. and they ensure the quality of the standard. we recommend the GNU General Public License (GPL) [FSF(b)] or the Lesser GPL (LGPL) [FSF(c)]. Therefore. To reduce confusion regarding the principles of open design. manufacturing equipment developed under open design methods may be freely adapted as needed by end-users.

At MIT. high-precision. The receptances Page 5 of 12 . Using the method of substructuring [Mead]. What remains is the need for a license applicable to design. and distribution of hardware and manufactured artifacts. and bills of materials. we are developing a family of open design linear-motion stages suitable for construction of three-axis machine tools. we can obtain a vibration model of the machine tool if we know the blocked and free receptance (dynamic compliance) at each hard point of each component of the system. and the second project is an aggregate micro EDM machine. we can directly measure the receptances to refine our model. but are more difficult to package and integrate into a complex machine. An equipment maker usually has the choice of purchasing modular stages or designing them “in house. Concerns about performance also play a role in this make-or-buy decision: thermal errors and vibration in a built-up system of modular components are difficult to predict. modular stages often load parts onto a machine while integrated stages usually do the precision “value added” work at the heart of a process.” Modular stages require less design effort (and are often less expensive) than custom stages. substructure analysis. are available for free to anyone that wishes to use. as long as they inform purchasers that a portion of the proprietary machine is an open design. More importantly. The documentation for these designs. Hence. We therefore design each element of the system with discrete hard points and take care to maximize their stiffness. linear motion stage. The Open Design Definition allows any individual or organization to use an open design as an element in a proprietary machine. software. Linear Motion Stages and Modular Machine Tools Linear and rotary stages are the functional building blocks of the vast majority of manufacturing systems. documentation. and module scaling. An open-design stage can be used in proprietary machine development in the same way as a modular stage. revision. but redistribution of modified open design elements requires that revised design documentation be publicly available. including solid models. Any open design license should satisfy the requirements in the Open Design Definition [ODF]. open-design stages are designed to deterministically attain dynamic performance in a built-up system through discrete mounting points.” four on the base and four on the carriage. It can also be modified for better integration and fabricated in-house or by a third party. CURRENT OPEN DESIGN PROJECTS This section illustrates the principles of open design for manufacturing equipment through two initial projects. modify or redistribute these the software community. damping. Once a prototype has been built. An organization or individual can produce or sell an open design if the purchaser is informed that they are purchasing an open design and the seller publicly distributes or provides a simple path to all the design documentation. Discrete Mounts and Substructuring: Consider the integration of a ballscrew-driven stage (such as that shown in Figure 1) into a machine tool by bolted joints at eight “hard points. drawings. The total machine remains proprietary. The first project is a modular.

g. and rolling-element bearings. desired impedances. Without this damping. payload.used in a system-level “impedance budget” can be obtained from analysis. Damping: The principal difficulty in designing a machine for dynamic performance is the low and difficult-to-predict level of damping attained from metals. This design is encapsulated in a parametric solid model driven by a set of numerical scripts that produce a plausible design (employing standard bearings and motors) from inputs such as the length of travel. Module Scaling The first generation of linear-motion modules (currently under development) feature a conventional construction involving a rotary motor. and modular linear guides mounted to a welded base. joints. attainable speed. or their fusion. ballscrew. Figure 1: Linear-motion module with eight hard points labeled MB1 through MB4 and SC1 through SC4. These dampers are designed into stiffeners (e. constrained-layer damping) and secondary bearing supports to provide a deterministic level of damping without introducing significant creep. experiment. it would be difficult for modular components bolted together at discrete mount points to attain dynamic performance comparable to an integrated machine structure. and so on. But the payload that a given stage must carry will depend on the Page 6 of 12 . We therefore design each component with embedded viscoelastic dampers..

OMNE’s objective is to provide a variety of designs for micro/nano fabrication equipment through open design projects. We describe this project to illustrate essential aspects in applying open design to manufacturing equipment. 3D-micromachining is achieved by positioning the electrode in the x. Rather. 3D solid models of the stage and machine elements were constructed. so that we cannot neatly perform the system design in a top-down sequence. The electrode is often manufactured using Wire Electro Discharge Grinding (WEDG) [Masuzawa. The y-stage is actuated by a DC servomotor (mounted on the y-stage) and a friction-drive transmission that couples the y-stage to a column rigidly mounted to the granite. and therefore adapt and reuse hardware from an existing machine. Unfortunately. A surplus xy-stage from a mask-aligner (commercially available during the mid-1980s) was selected as the starting point. the closed-loop performance of a stage will also depend on the dynamics of the machine as a whole. The x-stage is actuated by another DC servomotor (mounted on the y-stage) and a friction-drive transmission that connects the x-stage to the y-stage. The first OMNE project. 1998a. we will have to iterate back and forth between system and component design. 1985]. The home positions of the y-stage and x-stage are established with LVDT sensors. a new initiative. 2000] and nanotechnology [Corbett et al. and Yu et al.]. material is removed with electrical discharges between a rotating cylindrical electrode and a workpiece [Yu et al. Figure 2 illustrates the original elements in the positioning stage. was initiated by the Precision Systems Laboratory at the University of Kentucky.]. is the development and construction of a new machine for 3D-micromachining using electro-discharge micro milling [Hii et al. Microfabrication and Nanofabrication Equipment To support research in micromachining [Masuzawa. The y-stage is a T-shaped structure that is supported on five vacuum-preloaded air-bearing pads (two on the edge of the granite and three on the top surface of the granite). To facilitate reconfiguration of the machine and redesign activities. proprietary machines limit scientific investigation of the process and make enhancements or modifications to the equipment or process difficult.. Both of these processes are currently embodied in a machine from Panasonic Factory Automation. The project milestones are to rebuild portions of the stage and eventually replace much of the machine structure.sizes of the other components of the machine. The x-stage is a rectangular structure that is coupled to the granite surface and the y-stage using vacuum-preloaded air-bearings. Open Microfabrication and Nanofabrication Equipment (OMNE). and z directions using a CNC controller. The location of the x-stage in the x and y directions is measured using a plane-mirror laser interferometer. still in its infancy. Reconfiguration of Existing XY Stage We wish to avoid developing the OMNE µEDM machine entirely from scratch. y. Moreover. In electro-discharge micro milling. 1998b]. Page 7 of 12 . The foundation of the stage is a granite slab supported on pneumatic self-leveling pads.

This prevents developing control software for a proprietary DSP that is not portable to an alternative controller card. this was not possible. We therefore selected a positioning stage that was originally manufactured by a corporation that is no longer in business. Inc. and adding a z-axis and spindle [Hii et al. The pneumatic and vacuum systems for the air bearings are also being renovated. Similar to NIST’s Enhanced Machine Controller [Proctor]. z-stage and spindle support x-stage servo motors y-stage laser granite air bearings Figure 2: XY Positioning Stage for the OMNE Micro EDM Machine We are adapting the positioning stage for micro EDM. replacing outdated technology. we intend to eventually replace the original elements in the positioning stage with open designs. we decided to adapt and modify a pre-existing machine. To avoid this issue.]. By nature of being one of the first open design projects. the position and velocity loops are closed through the host computer’s Intel Celeron CPU rather than through a DSP on the controller card. Discussion This project illustrates several aspects of open design for manufacturing equipment that warrant discussion. For flexibility in machine and process control. The first topic is whether open design is suitable for creatively originating new designs or whether the method is better suited to incremental improvements. we are developing an open-architecture CNC machine controller [Koren]. The original laser interferometer is being replaced with a new interferometer system (Zygo 510). the new machine would have been based on a positioning stage already available under an open design license. The controller uses a three-channel. 16-bit motion I/O card (Precision Micro Dynamics. Page 8 of 12 . MFIO-3A) operating on a personal computer running a real-time operating system (QNX). Ideally.

a product life cycle is complete. and it prevents open designs from becoming obsolete should a proprietary element become unavailable. prevent useful designs from becoming dead. much of the software required for concurrent design is not economically affordable for all designers. IGES. Standard interchange formats such as DXF. These include standard design processes. native CAD data is generally not portable among CAD applications. This ensures that open designers can replace any proprietary element with another alternative. useful designs dissolve into history because a project is terminated before completion. open designers should agree to abide by certain standards in sharing and exchanging design information. Open Source software is often preferable. and this makes concurrent design with more than one CAD application difficult and inefficient. we begin by discussing the exchange of 2D and 3D CAD data. Unlike software development. Due to its proprietary nature. we suggest that software tools for design be available and accessible to any that wish to participate. it should therefore be replaced. Since geometric descriptions form the foundation of any machine design. Specifications for mechanical and electrical interfaces of open architecture elements should be publicly available and incorporated within the design documentation. etc. the Open Design Definition and licenses accommodate the inclusion of proprietary technology within open designs. For collaboration purposes. Since open design provides a public repository of design information. proprietary technology often enables significant technical advantage. design software (CAD/CAM/PDM). Proprietary CAD applications. NEMA motors [NEMA]) or be open architecture. such as the software tools. it can function like an archived journal.This project illustrates the potential for open design to increase the longevity of useful designs. SOFTWARE TOOLS FOR OPEN DESIGN To facilitate collaboration. Although open manufacturing equipment would ideally consist entirely of non-proprietary technology. however. that any proprietary elements should either conform to accepted standards (e. and allow designers to avoid continuously reinventing the wheel. Other standards. Therefore. since it is free to all users. the laser interferometer used in the positioning stage is no longer produced or supported by its original manufacturer. For these reasons. and STEP enable data to be exchanged. Page 9 of 12 . its technology is still useful for many applications. Therefore. units of measure. this is not practical. or a company goes out of business. which dominate industry. Open design can preserve design knowledge. information for operating and maintaining the interferometer is no longer available. are controversial due to personal preferences and software availability. but generally require some loss of modeling information (such as parametric representation or the ability to modify the data). drawing formats. traditionally use custom or proprietary data formats that reflect the nature of the application’s geometry kernel. Some standards. are easily established. 3D CAD data remains far from portable and is the weakest software tool available for open design. It is preferred.g. In fact. Although the positioning stage was originally designed during the early/mid 1980s. Therefore. such as an agreement to use SI units. these translations are generally performed in unidirectional exchanges and not sufficient for concurrent design. For instance. Thus. Too frequently.

Two open source 2D CAD packages already under development.JCVS .Gnumeric . and analyses.OpenOffice .gEDA Designer A Documentation Tools Designer B .Octave .KOffice Figure 3: Open Source Software Tools for Open Design Once designers create CAD An open source solid modeling kernel might establish a standard file format that can be exchanged in collaborative open design projects. Until a standard file format or Open Source solid modeling and Octave (http://www. ODF uses the Concurrent Versions System (CVS) (http://www.Project Web Sites .inria. so the opportunity exists to adapt them to the specific needs of the Open Design community.Scilab . Unfortunately.cvsgui.Email List Hosting Fe ch t t ch Fe Su it bm mb Su it Client Design Tools .OpenCascade . and branching capabilities similar to many commercial PDM packages. Server Side Tools .octave. checkout.QCAD . presentations) such as OpenOffice. These applications are Open in a client/server architecture as shown in Figure and FreeDraft (http://freeengineer.FreeDraft . It is used extensively for concurrent software development. they suit designers needs. locking. documents. OpenCascade ( is a project to develop a solid modeling kernel.Open Source CAD applications may eventually resolve these issues. Other tools for office documents and analyses are readily available and . word processing. CVS is a back-end tool that provides versioning. QCAD (http://www. data vaulting. While the basic tool has a command line front-end. spreadsheets. Open Source solid modeling software does not exist at this time.Product Data Management (CVS) ODF Internet . but there may be light at the end of the tunnel.Design "How To’s" Server .org/). open design must depend on translation tools using prescribed processes [Kiani] and proprietary CAD systems.html).opencascade. Although these applications were not developed specifically for design purposes. Though Page 10 of 12 . several graphical or web-based front-ends are available (http://www. These tools include complete suites of office applications (e. and numerical programming tools such as SciLab (http://www-rocq. they must be stored centrally in a repository or product data management (PDM) system.

gnu. edited by Koren. Integration of the loading robot may require that its controller interface as well as some of its mechanical details be modified. Arizona. Scottsdale. No. Open Design Foundation. 1998.. Annals of the CIRP. Vol. Y.R. http://www. p. p.F. Vol. Institute for Industrial Technologies and Automation. et al. the user has all of the information required to perform the modification or have it done by another party. “Wire Electro-Discharge Grinding for Micro-Machining”. Some time after the inspection machine is purchased. p. http://www. 523-545. Y. This modification may be carried out “in house” or by a third party. Vallance.html FSF(c).html. Proceedings of the American Society of Precision Engineers Annual Conference. J. and R.gnu. 2. to continuously improve equipment as well as manufacturing processes. No. Wiley. the designer of a PCB inspection machine may incorporate an open-design loading robot rather than designing it “in house” or purchasing a proprietary design. Zhao. Masuzawa 2000. CONCLUSIONS Both the designers and users of manufacturing equipment can benefit from open design. Since CVS is open source. it can be adapted to accommodate the needs of open design. speeding development and reducing the cost of the inspection machine. P. G. J. FSF(b) Free Software Foundation.html.gnu. R. Koren. REFERENCES Corbett. 34. 49. 2000 "Design of a Precision Electro Discharge Micro Milling Machine". Masuzawa 1985.html. "Free Documentation License". Peggs. http://www. Passive Vibration Control.opendesign. Annals of the CIRP. Open Architecture Control Systems---Summary of Global Activity. Vol. 2000 "Collaborating in a Mixed Environment". Page 11 of 12 . 473-488. the user may wish to change the way that PCBs are loaded and unloaded from the "GNU General Public License (GPL)". 49.. "State of the Art of Micromachining".org/copyleft/gpl. "Less General Public License (LGPL)". S. Hii. October 22-27. K.CVS is a powerful tool it is designed primarily for software development and specific procedures must be followed to use it for PDM purposes. Because the loading robot is an open design. McKeown. X. http://www.N. Open design gives manufacturers the freedom to modify equipment in response to product or production-system changes.A. FSF(a) Free Software Foundation. Annals of the CIRP. 1998 “Open Architecture Controllers for Manufacturing Systems”. 431-434. 1. For example. 2000 "Nanotechnology: International Developments and Emerging Products". Whatmore. Free Software Mead. Kiani. D. New York. 2.

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