OpenStructures Is A Modular Building System For The RepRap Age

Modular construction toys like LEGO and Meccano are great for prototyping, but they aren’t so great for large builds. OpenStructures promises to be a modular building system for projects large and small.

A series of images showing the disassembly of a short, red cabinet and its reassembly as a tall, white cabinet. The shelves are reused between both objects since they both are part of the OS Grid.

Originally conceived in 2007 by [Thomas Lommée], OpenStructures is a modern, more robust reinterpretation of Grid Beam, which was itself a reinterpretation of the earlier Living Structures. By using a common standard (PDF), parts can be reused project after project as they would with LEGO, meaning you can spend more time building and less time cutting or figuring out joints. OpenStructures parts need connection points, part diameters, or part dimensions at multiples of 20 mm to be compatible. To fulfill the spirit of the project, parts should be designed for disassembly, use recyclable materials when possible, and be Open Source.

The system seems like a great starting point for prototyping furniture or other large builds more quickly than building everything on a case-by-case basis. By including diameters for round objects as well as square and rectangular profiles, OpenStructures is a more flexible (and aesthetically pleasing?) option than Grid Beam.

A couple more options for furniture-scale modular construction are these big LEGO bricks or copper pipe.

(via Low Tech Magazine)

24 thoughts on “OpenStructures Is A Modular Building System For The RepRap Age

  1. Looks great in all, but do we really expect everyone to just jump into 20mm spacing? I mean, some things will work with 20mm intervals, but there are more that will work in 1mm, 2.4mm and so on. This doesn’t solve the problem of standards adoption, like in
    If a large community popped up, like what happened with gridfinity, then I’d love to contribute, otherwise why waste time on something that’s doomed? And yes, I know that, to take off, this needs to have people willing to partake in this before it becomes mainstream.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree. Also I’d like to add that while I love the idea, the current incarnation of the website doesn’t help in reaching their goal on account of being too “designy”, for lack of a better word. If you want to make a standard, and have it proliferate, you need to make that standard easy to understand and display it prominently. After a 10 minute exploration of the website I haven’t been able to find a page that concisely states what the standard that OpenStructures sets out actually is. It would be absolutely awesome if some changes were made to create something like gridfinity for structures but until the driving ideas are made more accessible I don’t see that happening. Imagine though, gridfinity organizers inside an open source modular shelf, how great!

    2. It’s a fundamental mistake to think a system has to either be all things for all people or worthless.

      I don’t think OS is primarily meant to be a system for building things, it’s a *design philosophy*, something for designers to think about and adopt some or all of in their practices. If it seems like a lot of navel gazing… well, that just goes with the territory.

  2. there’s so much random on their website its really hard to understand what they are trying to accomplish, and the vast majority of it is stuff you would build and never take apart, and some of it is just bazaar. Like what’s the of having an open source standard bit of leggo like holes for planters and face masks?

    1. This is interesting; thanks for sharing! Based on looking at their website, it seems that their system is compatible with OpenStructures. While OS states that compatibility is based on the 20 mm interactions, the base grid is actually 40×40 mm like this one if you look at the spec.

  3. The website is a bit obtuse but after finding the list of just raw parts, I’m not too enthused with the project.

    Their part “library” has over 1700 things in it ranging from one-off fixtures, weird boards with strange hole layouts, to esoteric knitted art-textiles and even bits of dried kombucha scoby(???). All with nothing more than the bare minimum of information regarding their usage and a number.

    There’s little in the way of any standardization aside from “make everything in 20mm units” and looking at how the part numbering system goes it seems the project is more of a dumping ground for parts used for one-off designs by a multiple separate designers.

    I can understand how “make everything in 20mm units” could reduce cognitive load when dimensioning parts of a larger design but I think a few more rules need to be in place alongside a concise, vetted list of core parts that can actually be used like I.D. LEGO. LEGO in the sense of interoperability, not just standardization. I don’t see many things in the Objects gallery that could be disassembled and put to use on any other Object. Each is wholly bespoke.

    With all that said, I do like the gallery of Objects. I’m a fan of things like Homemade Modern and McMaster Carr furniture so seeing all these designs in one place is pretty inspiring. I don’t know if I’d want any of it in my living space but it is neat to see so much raw effort into DIY homegoods in one place.

  4. I am more for (ab)using semi standard parts for tinkering.
    For example, profiles for shelving units are often obtainable locally and can be used for bigger constructions. These profiles are quite a lot like meccano, but a bit bigger and sturdier. They also come in different sizes, from small garage racks to big warehouse pallet racks.

    From various eastern asian outlets you can order “optical plate” in various sizes. This is a quite sturdy aluminimum plate with M6 holes in a 25mm raster, and all kind of stuff that fits on those plates is available too. Such a plate is a quite nice basis for things like a CNC router or a solder paste printer.

    Picatinny rails can also be abused for mounting all sorts of hardware for hobby projects. You can for example mount a drone on it and then send it to eastern Europe to make more special russian fertilizer.

    Or just use standard (and locally available) profiles, and combine that with some jig that makes it easy to drill holes at standard distances, for example with some movable locating pin.

    … Or you just start with relatively cheap base materials such as wood. Then it does not make sense to be able to take it apart and reuse it. You can burn it after use and grow a new tree.

  5. it seems like it’s working towards a scale where people really care about the precise characteristics of the material. i don’t have many projects bigger than a couple cubic inches where one size will fit all…i will use aluminum extrusion, or pine 2×4, or oak dowel, or unistrut, or plywood, or kraft parm cheese containers, or pvc pipe. if it’s bigger than a couple feet, i’ll really care about the weight or flexibility or strength of any of those products. sometimes it is handy to just use “whatever i already have”, but, well, i have all of those handy in my basement :)

    and for the physically small projects where the material characteristics can be disregarded, of course i use FDM 3d printing like everyone else

  6. Going to echo a lot of people here. This is clearly not an engineering project, it is an art project. This project does not seem to be nearly well thought out enough to be for engineering. This seems much more likely to be a “oh man wouldn’t it be great if” followed by 0 thought on proper implementation so you end up with an absolute mess of a website that is full of garbage parts no one wants to use.

    I would never design my work to fit a standard maintained by these people, give me people who think about complex problems and not just dream the big dreams.

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