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Thoughts On Open Source Hardware

Most open source hardware projects today are reworks of solutions to old problems

Arduino Auto-Pilot

  • auto-pilot systems have been around for decades
  • patents governing the system-level have long-since expired
  • commercial MCUs used encapsulate any new processor-related IP.
  • commercial sensors (MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes) encapsulate any new position and orientation related IP.
  • board designs are protectable IP, but they're so easily reverse engineered and copied that protection is a waste of time and money.
  • The firmware is simple software IP.

MakerBot and RepRap

  • The first additive rapid prototyping machines started appearing in the late 1980s
    • patents governing these implementations will have expired by now.
  • Subtractive CNC machines have been around much longer.
  • Printer technology has been around longer than RP
    • Reverse-engineering of ink cartridges to provide 2nd-source established.
  • Strength is in breadth of coverage
    • different feed-stock
    • different implementations
    • design enhancements
  • distributed workshop

Opportunities of Scale

  • Industrial technologies of the past century have succeeded on the basis of their ability to scale.
  • For every one advance that survived, several likely did not due to their inability to scale to the same degree.
  • With personal fabrication technologies entering the home, now is the time to mine the past for those missed opportunities of lesser scale.
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