Open source hardware (OSH) plays an important role in distributed manufacturing, global collaboration and knowledge sharing. Similar to open source software, where the source code is openly available in an online repository, open source hardware designs are fully documented and published under an open source license as a digital commons. The documentation entails any information that is needed to replicate the physical artifact, for example the computer-aided design (CAD) file, bill of materials, assembly guide, or firmware. The goal of open source hardware is to enable and allow anyone to study, modify, maintain, repair, and monetize the design.
Open Source Machine Tools[edit | edit source]
The advantages of open source hardware are evident:
- Knowledge sharing, feedback and open source licensing foster rapid innovation cycles.
- Access to technologies and affordable (machine) tools has democratizing and emancipatory effects.
- Critical components' design flaws are identified early by peer reviews, reducing waste and preventing poor quality.
- Access to the full documentation can be used for training and learning experiences towards attaining technological literacy.
- Editable design files enable adaptation/customization of products.
- Makers and users of hardware gain full control over the technology which reduces dependencies and vendor lock-ins.
- The right to repair becomes a reality: anyone with the skills can repair products and extend their shelf life.
- Open documentation fosters local knowledge and global collaboration.
Open source machine tools are a subset of open source hardware. The designs of these machines typically follow an appropriate technology approach, embracing affordability and modularity, in addition to using off-the-shelf components or DIY 3D printed parts to support user self-sufficiency and autonomy. The impact of open source machine tools (e.g. 3D printers, CNC mills, laser cutters) is multiplied by the above benefits as they are able to provide distributed and decentralized production capacity to communities in Fab Labs and Makerspaces worldwide. By enabling self-replication - using machines to make new machines - the dissemination of goods and products can be accelerated.
As part of the Tolocar project, we started a collection of open source machine tools on Appropedia.