2021 Winter Newsletter
Hello and welcome to our first newsletter, thanks for tuning in! This update covers some of what we’ve been doing the past 18 months and what we’re working on now. Check out our progress below 🌱
A quick refresh on the bigger picture: we’re extending the public domain modular construction system called Grid Beam and calling it Grid Kit - as we believe it’s much more than beams.
The open source Grid Kit system is metric and includes beams, panels, fasteners and a library of compatible add-on components (hinges, wheels etc). We’ve chosen a base unit size of 40mm which is compatible with existing t-slot framing and standard panel sizes. The Grid Kit website will offer 3D design software to help create, share and discover Grid Kit designs, while also letting you purchase components from a local supplier.
Our long term goal is for Grid Kit to become a platform that makes modular construction easy, fun and most importantly, affordable.
What we've been working on
In 2019 and 2020, we worked on a virtual playground to make and share Grid Kit designs. We wanted to make Grid Kit fun and understandable for anyone, even before you have any physical beams. The prototype at play.gridbeam.xyz works, but we learnt building a 3D interface is difficult. Rather than designing a full CAD (computed-aided design) application we decided to start with a catalogue of designs and let the user adjust parameters (height, width, etc.)
We used our robot arm with a consumer drill attached to make 200 prototype beams. We did this to learn how to drill to our tolerance of 0.5mm and to have some actual beams to experiment with fasteners and aesthetics. Although the robot does look cool, it is way too slow for production with only one drill bit.
Grid beam out in the world
In January 2021 we took some beams to Kiwiburn. They were used to create a camp kitchen, composting toilet shelter, and a tiltable solar panel mount. We got lots of positive feedback with some people asking where they could buy grid beams. It took less than 2 hours to dismantle the structures which can be reused next year in another form. We learned that hole placement needs to be super precise so that putting things together is painless.
Trialling furniture designs
In July we spent a week designing and building furniture including a dining table, sun bed, shoe rack, storage shelf, and pantry shelf. We started documenting the Grid Kit assembly process in detail, which we will soon publish to the website in a series of articles. We had some friends' kids visit and they had a lot of fun with offcuts. It was good to see how young children can understand how to build with grid beams without any instruction.
Making more beams
We are working with a mechanical engineer who is helping us design and build a new machine with greater speed and precision than the robot arm. Our goal is to design the machine such that it can produce beams efficiently, at scale, and ideally, unattended.
Work progresses in a number of areas on our website including: a full refresh of the design, new privacy & cookie policies, and the first version of our design catalogue with basic preset & parameter controls for customisation. Make sure to check all of these out at www.gridkit.nz!
Building a factory
The beam-making machine in development needs to convert dimensioned timber into grid beams in a way that is economically sustainable, precise and reliable. This is our current focus. We want our next problem to be “how do we get rid of all these beams?”
Sharing our knowledge
We are publishing a series of articles known as “Stories” on our website. Each story will hone in on a given topic, guide, or case-study regarding Grid Kit. Some of the first stories we are looking to publish will be “Grid Kit Basics”, an introduction to the fundamental Grid Kit concepts, and “Building with Grid Kit”, a step-by-step guide to constructing custom furniture with Grid Kit.
Open up Grid Kit for orders!
At the moment, when someone asks “so I love Grid Kit, how do I buy it?”, we unfortunately have to say “Sorry, we don’t have any!”. Our aim is to sell Grid Kits by the end of this year. We will continue to work on our factory and website to become production ready as soon as possible.