Hyperlocal manufacturing: fabrication factory in a shipping container

Paul Raven @ 17-08-2010

It’s amazing what you can cram into a shipping container: a solar power generator, an internet cafe, a data centre… or a self-contained tooling workshop and fabrication unit [via GlobalGuerrillas – beware dodgy pop-ups on the linked page]:

The MPH was developed when the army realized that the easiest way to get the many rarely requested, but vital, replacement parts to the troops, was to manufacture the parts in the combat zone. In short order, this led to the construction of a portable parts fabrication system, called MPH, that fit into a standard 8x8x20 foot shipping container. The original version used two containers, but smaller equipment and more powerful computers eventually made it possible to use one container.

As John Robb and others have pointed out, this is a blueprint for hyperlocal manufacturing… though to make it economically practical you’re going to have to shave down the construction costs from the bloated levels of military contracting:

There are four MPH systems in service, two of them in Afghanistan. A fourth is being built, at a cost of $1.5 million.

Ouch. What do you actually need? If you’re going local, you just need a space the same size as a shipping container; should be a stuffed animal that’ll do the job. A fast broadband connection will stand in for the military satellite link (assuming you’re operating in an urban area); speed probably isn’t too crucial with non-military applications, so you might be able to cantenna yourself into a convenient local wireless node for big savings. Then you need CNC machines and raw materials; the former can probably be bought up pretty cheap from bankrupt stock (hell, you might not even need to move the kit if it’s still sat in a disused factory unit – two birds, one stone), and the latter scraped up from salvage and reclamation…

Anyone fancy running the numbers on this?

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2 Responses to “Hyperlocal manufacturing: fabrication factory in a shipping container”

  1. m1k3y says:

    10 Viridian Pts for using ‘stuffed animal’.

    Fantastic idea, better once they become self-replicating.

  2. Rick York says:

    I’m not sure that the $1.5 million is a huge obstacle. Of course, cheaper is better. But, I’d bet that a mid-size community could afford to buy one of these. Particularly if it creates jobs.

    The obvious question is determining the market for the goods produced. Parts are one application but, it’s easy to come up with a number of items being produced from such factories. Programmable Fab machines open a whole world of possibilities.