CubeFactory 2 – an Off-Grid and Circular 3D-Printing Mini-Factory

Together with Jérémy we wrote a paper about the CubeFactory 2. He is a valued colleague, with whom we have successfully mastered many research projects. He is an expert in sustainable product development, sustainable value creation and open hardware principles, and researches at the University of Bath. Jérémy made a significant contribution to ensuring that the documentation for CubeFactory 2 is as open-source as possible (github). To make the openness transparent, we wrote this paper for the Journal of Open Hardware.

Muschard, B. and Bonvoisin, J., 2019. CubeFactory2 – an Off-Grid and Circular 3D-Printing Mini-Factory. Journal of Open Hardware, 3(1), p.3.

– Under a Creative Commons license –

The CubeFactory 2

In order to achieve the 1.5 °C target in coping with climate change, efforts are needed in all areas of human living to reduce the consumption of resources and the emitting of climate affecting substances. The development and testing of new forms of sustainable production, the use of renewable resources, the recycling of materials and the repair of defective systems are essential strategies of a new manufacturing paradigm. The CubeFactory contributes to this.

“The CubeFactory2 is a self-sufficient and luggage-sized production unit illustrating the concept of sustainable manufacturing through circularity and resource conservation. It is circular in the sense that it can create new products out of waste. It embeds a Fuse Filament Fabrication 3D-printer whose input material is supplied by a recycling unit producing filament out of thermoplastic waste. It saves resources in the sense that it embeds renewable energy and material supply to recycle and 3D-print without the need for further infrastructure. In its current state of development, the purpose of the CubeFactory2 is primarily illustrative and to support awareness on sustainable manufacturing”. (Muschard & Bonvoisin, 2019)

GitHub Documentation

We worked hard during the winter, documented the CubeFactory 2 and made it available as Creative Commons Public License on GitHub. Feel free to build and further develop the concept. Any improvements of the work documented here are welcome. For example, the power could alternatively be sourced from car batteries or generated through wind, water or other renewable resources. While the 3D-printer is an independent open source project by Pursa/Hephestos, the Filament Recycler is an own development for the use in the CubeFactory and offers a lot of room for improvement.

The CubeFactory 2 is an autonomous and portable mini factory with own energy and material supply. It embeds three modules: a 3D-printer, a plastic recycler producing filament for the 3D-printer for closed-loop material supply as well as photovoltaic panels and batteries for energy supply.



LNdW 2018

The Long Night of the Sciences is more than just a place of learning. It shows that science does not just take place behind closed laboratory doors, but that it is significant in almost all areas of life. As an integral part of the Berlin event calendar, the “Lange Nacht” has been inspiring thousands of people with and without a scientific background for years, with lectures, information booths and experiments, interactive formats such as science slams, hands-on activities. Of course we contributed with the MakerSpace for Sustainable Manufacturing.(

Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften 2018 – MakerSpace for Sustainable Manufacturing – PTZ, TU Berlin (LNdW 2018)

Learnstruments in Value Creation Networks

The CubeFactory is a tool for sustainable value creation, designed as a simple and intuitive instrument. It follows the idea of the Learnstruments, an approach developed in the CRC 1026, to make objects of value creation particularly beneficial to learning.

Collaborative Research Centre 1026 – “Sustainable Manufacturing – Shaping Global Value Creation”

Learnstruments in Value Creation Networks on CubeFactory – Vimeo

Fundet by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Realization of a Learning Environment to Promote Sustainable Value Creation in Areas with Insufficient Infrastructure

Consumption is an integral part of mankind existence. Therefore, it might not be wrong to think about how we want feed our hunger for material things in the long-term. Today 5% of the earth`s 7 billion people consume about 25% of all available resources. With an average western standard of living, the earth provides enough resources for only about 1.4 billion people; all 7 billion would need at least 3 earth. In short, we need to gain more value from less resources. In the long term we need to change our behavior and learn to deal responsibly with our resources. Perhaps classical paths to raise awareness are not enough adequate for this challenge and it requires new forms of teaching and learning.
The CubeFactory serves two purposes: It is a learning-conducive instrument (Learnstrument) with an experience-based approach for the mediation of a closed loop material cycle and also a self-sustaining mini-factory for the production of 3D printed objects.  The CubeFactory requires only sunlight and thermoplastic waste to operate. This paper provides a concept to teach and equip people for sustainable value creation using locally-available materials while taking into account minimal prior knowledge, skills and qualifications. An improved understanding regarding basic sustainable manufacturing competencies and recycling capabilities shall enhance the awareness regarding sustainability-related aspects of value creation, with particular focus on the efficiency and effectiveness of resources.

– Under a Creative Commons license –

Bernd Muschard, Günther Seliger

Bernd Muschard, Günther Seliger

CubeFactory projects  Recycle Bin

CubeFactory projects  Recycle Bin from CubeFactory on Vimeo.

The name says it all, “non-renewable” resources do not grow back – they are finite. Therefore, we should preserve them as long as possible. If they are already in use, it is important to continue to use them, to convert them again and again into new product life cycles.

Some thermoplastics can be easily utilized further and, in contrast to metallic materials, require very little energy for their (re)conditioning. For further processing, additive manufacturing processes such as FDM are suitable, since the raw material is easy to produce in the form of a wire. For example, domestic waste can be used as a cheap and locally available resource. This would effectively return obsolete or dispensable products back into the value creation process. Comparing the cost of 100 kg of sorted plastic waste ($1.00) with 1 kg of 3D printer ABS-filament ($25), an up-lift ratio of 2500:1 is realized.

This little machine shows how easy it can be to convert non-renewable resources into new product life cycles. It is simply called Recycle Bin and transforms plastic waste into 3D printer filament. We built this machine in the last few months, and in addition to its environmental and economic benefits, it has an unexpected social component. The shredding seems to have a magical attraction for my colleagues, since they now come over only for shredding a bit.

Future Prospects for Girls

Think about, what has not yet been invented, because we have too few women in engineering science! Girls, become engineers!

– Girls’Day – ‘Future Prospects for Girls’ initiated a large campaign in which a wide range of professions and activities is presented to girls of 10 years upwards. Girls’Day encourages the young women to participate in the campaign and change the common attitudes towards vocational orientation.

CubeFActory GirlsDay(1)

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and supported by the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA), the German Trade Union Federation (DGB), the Federal employment Agency (BA), the German Industry and Commerce (Chambers), the Federation of German Industries (BDI), the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH), the Federal Parent Council (BER) and the Initiative D21. The Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) and the Conference of Ministers of Gender Equality (GFMK) are represented as a permanent guest in the steering group.

Hannover Messe 2015

With about 6,500 exhibitors and 250,000 visitors the Hannover Messe is the world’s biggest industrial fair. Though our projects are anything but industrially, we thought we pack the RecycleBin and drop by, together with our friends from the NaWaRo bicycle.


Hannover Messe

Enabling of local Value Creation via Openness for Emergent Synthesis

Poverty and lack of education are associated with the overpopulation of mankind and the irresponsible consumption of resources. The ability to independently create values can help to improve the local situation, especially in emerging countries. At best, this is done in a sustainable way. The long tail of bits can allow open access to knowledge and technological innovation. This paper discusses this approach and sheds special light on the conditions of emerging markets. It was written mainly by Steffen, my former colleague who has made a significant contribution in the development of the CubeFactory.

July 2014, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 1489-1493

Steffen Heyer, Nariaki Nishino, Bernd Muschard, Günther Seliger

Steffen Heyer, Nariaki Nishino, Bernd Muschard, Günther Seliger

Sustainable Manufacturing – Collaborative Research Centre 1026

Sustainability has become an urgent requirement and challenge for mankind’s survival on earth and for future development, considering the limits of resources and growth and the unequal distribution of wealth. To explain the guiding principle of sustainable manufacturing, I made this video with my colleague Johannes Seidel. What is the global challenge and how do we in the CRC 1026 contribute to solving this problem?

Sustainable Manufacturing – Collaborative Research Centre 1026 from CubeFactory on Vimeo.

Tech Open Air 2014 – The Unconference

Some conferences make it particularly easy to make work not feel like work. The Tech Open Air (TOA) is such a conference. “Our mission is to connect, grow, and inspire the human spirit through knowledge exchange and collaboration”. It is a great place to meet entrepreneurs, artists and scientists. We had inspirational story telling, interactive panels, knowshops, pillowtalks, art installations, live music and all in a beautiful location – a abandoned carpet factory.

Berlin, July 16th, Alte Teppichfabrik, Tech Open Air 2014

Berlin, July 16th, Alte Teppichfabrik, Tech Open Air 2014

(Photos by: Openers UG, Tech Open Air)

Jugend forscht – youth research competition

definition of

youth (juːθ): The qualities of vigour and freshness, or immaturity as associated with being young.

research (rɪˈsəːtʃ): The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

(Oxford Dictionary)

The qualities of vigour and freshness, this is in some respects also true for our small prototype. Materials, and (open) sources to reach new conclusions, just the right event for the CubeFactory. Once again, we were curious but also a bit nervous to face the critical young researchers. Their questions are often exceptional, and while not always easy to answer, they constantly open up  new perspectives. Once again – thank you for your curiosity. We look forward to the next year.

CF Jufo

A BUY recommendation

Florian Horsch wrote a good book for those who want to expand their knowledge about 3D printing.  He presents a detailed overview of software & hardware and an insight into communities, new developments and what we can expect from the current hype. Maybe I should mention that the CubeFactory is in it, too.

FH 3DP4allFlorian Horsch – 3D-Druck für alle: Der Do-it-yourself-Guide

Available at your local bookstore or at here

Closing the CubeFactory

The CubeFactory can pull in for safe transport to a space-saving cube. We have tried to keep the space requirements as low as possible and take advantage of every inch. Nevertheless, we left some space for future extensions and ideas.

Meanwhile, the motor limit switches are mounted. For the main switch, we are still looking for a good position, accessible but well hidden. Maybe a remote control?

The lifting is still a bit noisy, but let’s face it, it’s still a prototype. Against the squeak of the jackscrew, a lot of grease was very helpful, the vibrations we will hopefully be able to slightly reduce by foam rubber.

Closing the CubeFatory from CubeFactory on Vimeo.

Introducing the CubeFactory

The CRC 1026 Sustainable Manufacturing on the MaketechX

During this “conference of tech things that matter, where those who make a difference meet, think and create” the two researchers, Dr. Ing. Jérémy Bonvoisin and Dipl.-Ing. Bernd Muschard held a lecture on the challenge of sustainability and presented some of their projects. Here, the following video was made:

Bernd Muschard & Jérémy Bonvoisin – Sustainable Manufacturing with the” All in one Cube” from MaketechX on Vimeo.


Explaining the CubeFactory is actually quite simple, but it takes some time to complete. Thank God there are posters.

Here is a brief overview of the idea behind the CubeFactory. The goal is to build a mini-factory which contains everything needed for sustainable production. Each module provides its own contribution to sustainability and relies only on free, locally-available resources.

Since the resource of knowledge is not openly available everywhere in the world, it should be integrated into the CubeFactory. It’s all about the issue of sustainable value creation. What is it and how can we implement it into production? The CubeFactory is a tool for learning and application. And with a little sun and plastic, it works in almost every place in the world.

Poster Querschnittsprojekt CubeFactory englisch

Corner assembly

This is the result of a long night of designing, now we can start with the housing. The complete support structure for the cube body will be built up by just 3 different components. In order to be manufactured very easily, they are all printable in a 3D-printer.

Printing cube corner

Printing of one of the corners for the Cube Factory. It was a first test with only 5 percent fill. This gave some problems. Corners with 18 percent fill have shown to be very strong.

Work in progress

The design of the Cube Factory in Solidworks is in progress. Still missing on these images are the solar panels, which will be attached to every side, and the batteries next to the lifting spindle.