The INTERFACER project takes up the Fab(rication) City concept of distributed production of open-source hardware in the context of an urban circular economy. Distributed, decentralized production and value creation differs significantly from classic company-based value creation in that autonomous, dislocated actors come together along the value chain (design, development, production, logistics and distribution) in a problem- and demand-oriented manner in order to create a product in a process that so far hasn’t been sufficiently formalized to recycle materials beyond its life cycle and feed them into a new productlife cycle. Since the institutional embedding in a hierarchically structured company and thecentral control by this company no longer apply and also classic, market-based coordination mechanisms do not necessarily take effect, suitable interfaces, structures, processes, forms of governance and, last but not least, software-based digital support are required for the implementation of such a distributed, decentrally organized form of value creation.

The Fab City federated digital network

The Fab City federated digital network is an ensemble of interconnected, independent digital services that provide the core digital infrastructure for the Fab City OS: It is based on the Fediverse, an ensemble of federated servers and software (e.g. used for web publishing and file hosting) but which, while independently hosted, can communicate with each other because they are sharing the same communication protocols which follow an open standard. The Fab City federated digital network enables distributed design workflows globally and manufacturing workflows within Fab Cities and its members. It allows each instance of Fab City OS to manage which digital assets to share and publish. One of the features of the federated digital network is to provide passports that track and trace the journeys along material and digital design lifecycles. The user interfaces of the federated digital network give user groups (designers, manufacturers etc.) access to tailored user workflows for their specific needs.

Product Design User Interface

The design user interface allows designers to promote and share their designs.

This user interface offers designers, engineers and product inventors the opportunity to upload their design files and human and machine readable documentation (such as search keywords). These files are made available for other designers to improve or incorporate in their own designs. The Product Design User Interface can display details of the original author and all subsequent contributors, which are indelibly recorded on a blockchain. This blockchain is linked to the design file, this is what we call the Design Passport. If a design file is used to manufacture products and these are then sold, those involved in production can be remunerated via a compensation mechanism and with the help of the design passport.

Manufacturing User Interface

This user interface is provided for companies that manufacture or repair products.

Here they can order materials necessary for the products, manage the ordering of products and their production. It resembles a classic enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, but is strongly focused on the needs of a fab lab.

Manufacturers or producers, these can be Fab Labs, Makerspace but also SMEs with hardware production capacities, can present a portfolio of their machinery in this interface. It communicates the costs of using the machines as well as the prices for the necessary raw materials and their availability of a requested production. Through this interface, designers can make requests for production processes, cost estimates and delivery times to the nearest manufacturing sites. Once agreed, the order can be accepted and machine availability is updated accordingly. In addition, the necessary design data, including its metadata, is transmitted to the respective paver. The manufacturer is, if necessary, also able to adapt the designs in order to meet the framework conditions of his manufacturing process. Overviews of open and running orders are also displayed to the manufacturer and designer. Additional specialized interfaces for recycling and repair processes are being evaluated.

Marketplace interfaces

This interface enable Marketplace platforms to offer to their customers products from the Fab City OS manufacturers.

In order to bring the manufactured products to the consumer, it is planned to develop an interface (API) with the Manufacturing User - and the Product Design - Interface as well as already existing Marketplace platforms. This interface will be conceptualized and described in more detail in a later stage of the project. This interface will offer Marketplace platforms to offer products from Fab City OS manufacturers to their customers.

Fab City Software Kit

The Fab City Software Kit enables Fab Cities to share knowledge digitally within their city and with others.

This offers Fab Cities and cities that want to become a Fab City a number of already existing open source software components that they can find collected on a website and download from there. The individual components are intended to enable (future) Fab Cities with the following things:

The added value of this kit is the interoperability of the individual software elements and their user manuals, which was created based on practical experience from the Fab City Hamburg. Furthermore, the software elements can be installed on a local server, which on the one hand ensures the data sovereignty of the Fab City and on the other hand enables data exchange between the cities. So far, the following software components are under discussion and their selection will be specified in the coming months.