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Portable Manufacturing Inside of a 20' Shipping Container

19.09.2012 - Posted by Updated On 19.09.2012    

Rapid Deploy Manufacturing Containers

We’ve read about the residential and commercial housing, retail space, even hydro-farms built out of recycled shipping containers; it was only a matter of time before some innovative company began to apply used shipping containers to micro-manufacturing, and that company is re:char.
Re:char has developed a product called “Shop-in-a-box”.  Shop-in-a-box is an off the grid, open source factory built inside of a recycled 20’ shipping container.  The concept is readily deployable anywhere in the world and is well geared for rapid prototyping and small manufacturing operations.  Given the alternatives in many rural areas, the design is highly effective.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

The idea was created due to a need to produce Climate Kilns in Kenya (before you Google “climate kiln’: it’s common for farmers in Kenya to burn sugarcane debris in open fields to release the carbon. Climate Kilns control the burn to produce bio-char, a carbon-rich soot that, when mixed into soil, lets farmers use half the fertiliser they’d normally need for their crops.).  Originally, there were two options:  Local labor that consisted of a man along the road with a torch, or purchase a full run at a time direct from China.  Neither of these options were ideal, as you either ran the risk of inconsistent quality with the local labor (and a low upfront cost), or consistent quality and a large upfront investment (with an extended lead time).  After some creative thought, the re:char team found that they could make, build, and deliver the shop-in-a-box for around $30,000.  The micro-factory provided them the capacity to make 600 climate kilns per month, managed by a staff of only two.

Container factories can be either purchased directly from re:char, or keeping true with their open source platform, the plans downloaded from their website [http://www.re-char.com/shop-in-a-box/]. As the network of innovation grows, the CAD files are made available through the open source network and anyone can improve or amend the designs.

At the present time, each shop-in-a-box is designed to be equipped with:

  • A CNC table, working envelope 4’x4’x6”, capable of running a plasma torch or wood-cutting router.
  • Solar panels + batteries / inverters adequate to power the shop during prototyping / design (computers + 1-2 hand tools).
  • Generator adequate to power the shop during production (usage of welders, plasma CNC, etc.).
  • Transformers capable of scrubbing irregular grid power to a state where it is safe for use with shop-in-a-box.
  • 2 plasma torches, one for CNC use and another for hand operation. Each is capable of severance cuts up to 3/4″ and sustained cutting in any thickness metal from 1/2″ down to 22-gauge.
  • Full MIG, TIG, and oxyacetylene welding setups for joining a wide variety of metals.
  • Electronics prototyping, centered around through-hole components and arduino microcontrollers.
  • Desktop 3d printer.
  • A desktop, aluminum-capable CNC router.
  • A wide variety of smaller tools: hand, power, and pretty much everything else you’d expect in a well-outfitted garage.
  • DVR with 4 cameras, mounted to easily capture and share all details of project builds.
  • All computers and software necessary to support the shop.

According to Gizmodo.com, “This could mark a tremendous shift in manufacturing. By decentralizing a facility, making it cheaper and greener, and helping a community evolve as it makes its own products, it’s easy to imagine an independent amateur designer coming up with the next great thing. Without a shipping container factory, he or she might not have ever had the chance to try. This movement, if it catches on, would be nothing short of revolutionary.”
For more information visit the re:char website, or email luke@re-char.com.



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