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Cost of Parts and Hours of Labor for LifeTrac
  • Hi all,

    I'm in touch with folks who might want to fabricate a LifeTrac (more details tomorrow), and we're curious:
    1. How much does a LifeTrac fabricated at Factor e Farm cost?
    2. What's the parts cost of a LifeTrac?
    3. How many human hours, approximately, to build a LifeTrac (after building the jigs)?

  • 19 Comments sorted by
  • I see Slide 4 from the 23 April 2008 presentation at University of Columbia that the cost of materials for a LifeTrac plus implements was then calculated at $8,000. In 15 November 2009 FSCONS Slide 31 lists "Tractor with loader and PTO" at $4,000. I'm guessing that the cost may have changed or been refined since those dates.
    Maybe I'm asking questions that don't yet have answers -- let me know if this is the case.
    ~ Patrick
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    November 2011
    There were some serious design flaws recently discovered in the LifeTrac, which we are led to believe have been corrected, but so far, the changes haven't been documented.  Prior to building any, it would be prudent to find out more about those changes.
  •  They have built a new heavier duty coupler (the part that broke) and it does appear to be working well however we haven't had the chance to really test it to failure as we need the tractor running right now for the workshop and hablab build. Once that is done then the documentation should be updated. Keep in mind our official "release date" is end of dec. this year. I'm hoping to have at least the CAD and drawings side of the life trac done before then, but even that I'm aiming for start of Dec.

    There should be a blog post in the next week or two regarding the new design and how the testing goes for it. Hope that helps!
  • Great to know! Thanks for the info about the couplers and the forecast date of publication of the documentation. The tractor would likely be built in the second half of 2012. What we're most curious about now is the price of parts, and we realize that varies based on location and quality and other factors. If an estimate is available now, I'd like to know if the estimated parts cost of the tractor is still around $4,000. Or is that calculation part of what gets published in December?
    ~ Patrick
  • Vote Up0Vote Down November 2011
    I don't know how they got $4k. When I tried to find parts online the metal frame alone came to almost $4k (not even including bolts to put it together!).

    Maybe if you have a local supply yard or you buy in bulk it may be cheaper. But if you're a DIYer and are trying to track down parts it seems like the real cost would be 3 times as much if not more.

    Shipping heavy parts can some times cost more than the part itself! Keep that in mind.
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    November 2011
    As far as the replication issue & related costs to replicate LifeTrac (or a Power Cube, for that matter), I don't believe the issue of using surplus parts was ever addressed either.  There have even been situations in the recent past, whereby the design of the power cube or such had to be changed because hydraulic part xx was no longer available as surplus, and the next best thing didn't fit the same way.

    As it stands, in any other place in the world, they may not have access to the same set of surplus parts, and in fact, there is NO guarantee that the surplus parts currently in the designs will even remain available for OSE to use next year, next month, or even tomorrow.

    If one had to replicate any such OSE design, but had to go purchase suitable parts off-the-shelf, in a modern industrialized area, they are still looking at a substantial price hike over what any current prototypes have been made with.

    It would be prudent to consider this, both in any individual choices to replicate OSE hardware, and in any business enterprise attempt to manufacture said hardware, because sourcing one's parts could be the straw that broke the proverbial "camel's back"...

  • Vote Up0Vote Down November 2011
    I wonder if it would be possible to specify the lifetrac (once the design becomes proven, etc) using constraints instead of exact dimensions and materials.

    So that you could input what you have available to you locally in an application and it would spit out a parts list and CAD diagram. The program would scale everything to your local measurement system and make sure that any minimum and maximum tolerances would still be met, etc.

    I'm a programmer and not an engineer so I know I can implement the software to do this, I just don't know if the engineering side of this is feasible as I would need the calculations, tolerances, maximums and minimums provided to me.

    Has this sort of constraints/scale based engineering ever been done? Could it work in this case?
  • Hello eukreign,

    I don't think that a software of this kind exists? It would have to be a very complex software.
    If if You would write this software, I wouldn't trust the results! Maybe Your program is without errors, a big if....
    The list of constraints and conditions as input for that software would have to be very long. And probably full of errors, thats the reason why I wouldn't trust the results of the software. If You change one dimension, lets say the square tubes of Lifetrac from 4" to 5", You would have to change the geometry of all adjacent parts. You will have to calculate, that the larger tubes don't collide with any other part of the tractor, moving parts included!
    You have to recalculate the stresses in the parts, also in parts connected to the changed parts. So Your program would need to have the ability to calculate different machine parts, including FEM analysis. And, and, and
    Given the fact, that real capable 3D-CAD-Software is already very large and complex and expensive, a program as proposed by You would have to be much more complex, much larger and You will probably need supercomputers to execute it. Take my advice, just forget it. Maybe 100 years later..

  • @PatrickGibbs

    Do not expect to get ever reliable exact data about the costs of materials or the man-hours needed ! It always depends

    In the attached file I have given You 2 examples with current real data respective realistic estimates why data about raw material cost and manufacturing time vary so much. Do You really expect that a guy with a small table lathe manfactures a part in the same time as someone with a large high-power CNC controlled lathe ?
    The same applies for someone with a hand torch compared with a CNC-controlled table.


    costfigures.pdf 14K
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    November 2011
    I think the status of the LifeTrac is still in a bit of flux, though the majority of the part list is stable.  As for costing said parts, that's going to be an on-going battle.  The price of steel goods is constantly changing - ever upwards - which will always  make it difficult to figure out how much it will cost to build.  Perhaps we can figure out a scaling factor based on the spot price of iron or some other index.  I also think that all GVCS BOMs should include sourced RETAIL prices, not surplus goods.  That way, if you have a surplus part, it will lower the cost to build.

    - mark

  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    November 2011
    I'm currently producing a Power Cube. I'm documenting my progress on my blog. I'm also tracking costs and work time closely on a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet has 3 tabs. One for steel, one for 'parts' and one as a time sheet. The timesheet only documents actual fabrication time. I'm a novice fabricator, so my time records will probably run high. Also, I spend a lot of time digesting documentation and verifying my understanding. As the documentation improves this will be easier.
  • Hey Andrew,

    If you're doing a Power Cube, I advise putting a shroud or cover over the muffler on the gas tank side. If you are adding gas and you spill some onto the muffler it can ignite. Or better if you can bend pipe then curve it around to the other side.

    - mike 
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    November 2011
    does gasoline act as a paint thinner?
  • I've used it on oil based paints before myself.
  • Hello,

    I am new here. I am very fascinated by the concept because for the last 4 years have been developing a concept to help eliminate poverty in African communities. I have written a book scheduled to be published in 2 months, with working title "Object Oriented Development in Africa" I am a software developer so I figured the principles of object oriented development can apply to community development. With this I hope to encourage African communities to create "Cluster Villages" based on free markets. 

    So you can imagine how excited I was a few days ago when I found out about Open Source Ecology. It did not take me long to make a connection not only with Open Source Software, but the fact that my own Object Oriented Development for Africa is driven from software development. 

    Why am I here.

    My book does not offer specific solutions, but encourages communities to be innovative and look within to help eliminate poverty. It also calls for collaboration. Investors and service providers who are willing to offer African communities goods and services at an affordable price. The providers should be willing to sell their products for much less, but due to volume they will realize a profit to ensure they remain sustainable. The objective also for me is to eliminate aid in Africa. I am not going to ask anyone for a donation.

    I find the popular question here is about cost. I am more than willing to collaborate with anyone to set up a shop that can acquire some of this materials in bulk to lower cost. Anyone can buy what they want at cost, I can also ship the pre-fabricated parts to Africa to be put together lowering cost as the projected is intended. Some of you can sell your products directly through me. I already to places that help bring these two ideas together and to life. I believe this will expedite replication.

    I a Zambia but live and work in Canada, Toronto Ontario. I have no problem setting up a shop to fabricate things in the US. I am prepared to contribute to the cost of setting a shop.

    Thank you all.

  • "My book does not offer specific solutions, but encourages communities to be innovative and look within to help eliminate poverty."
    >>>Sorry, but I actually did "laugh out loud" when I read that. I don't understand why that would be useful. Do impoverished people not realize they're impoverished? Either they already are trying to "look within to help eliminate poverty" because, you know, they're in poverty...or they aren' which case it's more of a motivation thing (so better brainstorming tools won't help). 

    "Investors and service providers who are willing to offer African communities goods and services at an affordable price."
    >>>Is "willing" a code word for "charitable?" If you have uncovered profitable business strategies that existing "investors and service providers" aren't aware of then that makes sense (although it would make more sense for you to just start your own business). If not, then why cloud the issue? Just ask for more charity. Everyone already knows Africa can suck down all the charity anyone can offer.

    "...due to volume they will realize a profit to ensure they remain sustainable."
    >>>Volume, huh? Does Africa have the infrastructure to distribute the volume of products selling "for much less?" 

    "The objective also for me is to eliminate aid in Africa."
    >>>Well that doesn't seem fair. Even people in America get "aid" from others. Why shouldn't Africa get some?

    "I am prepared to contribute to the cost of setting a shop"
    >>>Cool. Replication and testing is (in my humble opinion) the best thing that can happen to the GVCS.

  • Hello Matt:

    I may have worded what made you laugh wrong - lol, but I Africa is made up of more than 50 countries, hundreds of ethinicities, thousand of tribes and languages. Most Africans know they live in poverty, but most are discouraged from being innovative by governments and some cultural beliefs. I offer several examples of businesses that can work in these communities, I suggest each reagion should create their own requirements document. I propose Cluster Villages were houses should be built within close proximity as opposed to 100 and 500 apart as in some communities which makes it expensive to deliver service like water, sewage and electric.

    No I am not suggesting charitable, I make reference to "Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" by late CK Prahalad an Indian professor who did extensive research to support this theory. Being African, I have seen his arguments to be true. Why is cell phone access growing at such a fast rate in Africa and India and companies profitable, and yet no one there has $15 or $100 data plan? All in coming calls are free. Then there is mobile banking and mobile money transfers that are found in regions not deemed possible only a few years ago. Yes volume works and it will work. For certain goods, the poor actually pay more than you even in the US. This like sugar, detergent, salt and floor. Most cannot afford to buy a 2 kg package of sugar, so someone buys it 1 package and repackages to sell it to the poor, by time one gets by the whole package it ends up costing them more.

    Internet can be delivered cheaply in Africa than it is done now there or in the West. The whole concept is to also build the infrastructure to make this possible, affordable goods and service. Eliminate reliance on foreign oil, Africa is huge - dedicate agriculture production to food and fuel. Target 20 - 30 percent bio-fuel to suppliment imported fossil fuels. If a country imports 100 million worth of oil it means 20-30 of that now goes to local farmers. The consensus is for Africa to grow food for export to earn foreign much needed foreign exchange, so they say. But I believe Africa should focus on intra trade, between communities and nations on the continent. Infrastructure to support this will come, thanks to other and OSE.

    I cannot ask anyone to stop giving aid, but I can sure encourage people to stop depending on it. Aid has had serious consequences on Africa, infact most people in the West think they are helping, most have very good intentions, but in my opinion and opinions of others who watch this closely we believe Aid to Africa is actually the leading contributor to African poverty and most proplems we see.

    I am supported here by Dambisa Moyo, also a Zambia and Author of best selling "Dead Aid - why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa". Paul Collier a renowed economist from Oxford and an expert on Aid also believes the Aid system needs to be structured - his Book "The Bottom Billion - why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it." I have discussed aid with him in detail and his book argues that not everyone in Africa needs aid or should be considered poor. Then there is "Lords of Poverty" by Graham Hancook, again he argues very well why Aid has been killing 'poor' economies. People in the West keep sending used mosiquito nest, used clothes and even grain and all they are doing is killing local industry. The Aid structure has made Africa a dump for things you people in the so called rich nations don't want. Read any foreign department website from the UK to Canada or the US, for every dollar you guys send to African as Aid, you get back more than 1.10, how is that aid? If that is the Aid, we don't want it. My point here is not to discuss aid, it will become a distraction.

    What I like about OSE is that, for this to be sustainable someone has to pay for something some how, and because it is open source, most African communities can affordably pay for most of your machines. My book suggests food processing, tourism, small manufaturing the same things OSE talks about.

    So I am more than prepared to replicate this process and have it tested in Africa. I have a lot of land close to the City that I can use to test this. Our traditional home is in the place called Chilubi Island, this place has never seen a grader, a back hole or a front loader. All the roads there were made with Axes and holes.

    My book is also supported by another renowned Economist Hernando De Soto of Peru. Who shows examples that because the poor have not been accorded the tools to build proper infrastructure, they only have what he calls "Dead Capital" - in the book "The Mystery of Capital".

    I will try to contact the Canadian guys, thanks for the link.











  • Matt:

    Please also note that there are different types of aid, both Dead Aid and Lords of Poverty make that distinction, and I agree. For example, I am not against aid that say let us build a school or library with no strings attached. I don't want aid that says, we will build you a road, but all the engineers will come from America, and you pay us in your copper or oil, sorry thanks but no thanks.



  • Okay, the expanded explanation focuses a lot more on infrastructure, which is exactly what OSE is developing. Marcin seems to want people to come to FeF and sort of "intern" there so that they can help get the farm running and then take what they learn back to wherever they came from. Maybe you can do that or maybe you can sponsor someone else to do it.

    "Please also note that there are different types of aid, both Dead Aid and Lords of Poverty make that distinction, and I agree. For example, I am not against aid that say let us build a school or library with no strings attached. I don't want aid that says, we will build you a road, but all the engineers will come from America, and you pay us in your copper or oil, sorry thanks but no thanks."
    >>>Well, yeah. One of them is specifically described as "here, take this free stuff" and the other is specifically described as "take this stuff and give us that stuff you have in trade." I'd take free stuff before I'd make an uneven trade any day. That's just sensible. However, previously you seemed to be pretty clear about how "free stuff" is killing local economies. Your school example reminds me of stuff America is doing in Afghanistan where the engineering corps builds a new school and within days all the electrical wiring and plumbing is ripped out to be sold as scrap. Sure, wealth/educated people can look at a poor community and understand that education is vitally important to getting them out of poverty, but from their perspective the quick score is always more important. Poor people can't be sure that something of value will still be there tomorrow, so they exploit it immediately. It goes beyond rational decision making. They keep doing it even when they're not poor anymore. Old habits die hard and all that. 

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