The Production Cycle is a project which explores small-scale manufacturing in dense urban areas. Additionally, it touches on issues of:
- Human powered manufacturing infrastructure
- Re-claiming waste streams
- Building maker-customer interactions
- Creating products which are unique to a geographic area
Developed by Dominic Muren and funded by 4Culture in Seattle Washington, The Production Cycle is a bicycle-portable, treadle-powered sewing station. Over the summer of 2010, Dominic will ride the cycle to multiple farmer's markets throughout the Seattle area. At each farmer's market, he will use sheet material scraps from various small manufacturers in Seattle to create reusable bags for market customers to carry their produce home in.
In addition to engaging visitors to the farmer's markets, Dominic will maintain a collection of video posts chronicling the process of building the cycle, sourcing materials, and sewing bags at markets. In this way, people outside of the Seattle area will be exposed to the piece.
Finally, recognizing that he is just one person on one bike, Dominic will make all plans for The Production Cycle available on Thingiverse, open source, and free of charge. This will allow other small designers and producers to re-imagine their own local production, hopefully fostering growth of many small cottage industries around the world.
Currently, the project has completed phase two, which involved gathering material suppliers, specifying components for the cycle, and creating a working design for the assembled trailer. The current design uses an Xtracycle mounted to a Trek mountain-bike frame. A series of plywood sheets stack together to form the frame for the sewing table, and locate the treadle mechanism. The treadle is cast iron, and recovered from an old singer treadle table -- these parts can be had cheaply on Craigslist or Ebay. In order to cut weight on the final design, a Singer 221 Featherweight machine head was chosen. Since they are made from aluminum, this machine is 1/3 the weight of a comparable cast iron head. Plastic machine heads can be used, but require more modification to be used with a treadle, since the motor is generally internal.
The above sketchup file shows the general dimensions of the current working design. This file is not accurate to a part-level, but is useful in determining how much wood will be needed, etc.
So far, I have received material commitments from:
- Theo Chocolate in Fremont (burlap and poly sacks)
- Vivace Coffee in Capital Hill (burlap and poly sacks)
- 2020 Cycles in the Central District (bicycle inner tubes)
- Various Tailors in the Seattle Area
- Other food suppliers (rice bags, etc)
- More cycle shops
This bag design is easy to cut out from a variety of material scrap sizes. It is also sewable using a straight stitch machine only. However, the rubber handles are difficult to sew
The production cycle has been out for multiple visits -- maybe in your neck of the woods. Check out below for some images, and stay tuned for more.
Shoutouts and call for action:
This project was inspired by the MicroCycle project, originally conceived by Elliott Montgomery, an undergraduate design buddy and long-time collaborator of Dominic's. The Production Cycle continues in the tradition of context-sensative remix and proliferation of this idea. The hope is that open-sourcing the project will result in even more globally realized remixes, reflecting the diversity of materials, and making in all the world's societies. What would you humblefacture with your own production cycle?