Open design

Open design
RepRap general-purpose 3D printer that not only could be used to make structures and functional components for open design projects but is an open-source project itself. RepRap is also being designed with the ability to make copies of itself.
Uzebox is an open design video game console.[1]
Bug Labs open source hardware[2][3]

Open design is the development of physical products, machines and systems through use of publicly shared design information. The process is generally facilitated by the Internet and often performed without monetary compensation. The goals and philosophy are identical to that of the open source movement, but are implemented for the development of physical products rather than software.[4]


Sources of the open design movement

The principles of open design are derived from the Free Software and Open Source movements.[5] In 1997 Eric S. Raymond, Tim O'Reilly and Larry Augustin established "Open Source" as an alternative expression to "Free Software," and in 1997 Bruce Perens published the Open Source Definition. In late 1998, Dr. Sepehr Kiani (a PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT) realized that designers could benefit from Open Source policies, and in early 1999 he convinced Dr. Ryan Vallance and Dr. Samir Nayfeh of the potential benefits of open design in machine design applications.[6]. Together they established the Open Design Foundation (ODF) as a non-profit corporation, and set out to develop an Open Design Definition.[6].

The idea of open design was taken up, either simultaneously or subsequently, by several other groups and individuals. The principles of open design are closely similar to those of Open source hardware design, which emerged in March 1998 when Reinoud Lamberts of the Delft University of Technology proposed on his “Open Design Circuits” website the creation of a hardware design community in the spirit of free software.[7]

Current directions of the open design movement

The open design movement currently unites two trends. On the one hand, people apply their skills and time to projects for the common good, perhaps where funding or commercial interest is lacking, for developing countries or to help to spread ecological or cheaper technologies. On the other hand, open design may provide a framework for developing very advanced projects and technologies that might be beyond the resource of any one company or country and involve people who, without the copyleft mechanism, might not otherwise collaborate. There is also now a third trend where these two methods come together to use high-tech local solutions to sustainable development.[8]

Open machine design as compared to open-source software

The "open design" movement is currently fairly nascent but holds great potential for the future. In some respects design and engineering are even more suited to open collaborative development than the increasingly common open-source software projects, because with 3D models and photographs the concept can often be understood visually. It is not even necessary that the project members speak the same languages to usefully collaborate.

However there are certain barriers to overcome for open design when compared to software development where there are mature and widely used tools available and the duplication and distribution of code cost next to nothing. Creating, testing and modifying physical designs is not quite so straightforward because of the effort, time and cost required to create the physical artefact; although with access to emerging flexible computer-controlled manufacturing techniques the complexity and effort of construction can be significantly reduced (see tools mentioned in the fab lab article).

Open design organizations

VIA OpenBook reference design CAD visualisation

Open design is currently a fledgling movement consisting of several unrelated or loosely related initiatives. Many of these organizations are single, funded projects, while a few organizations are focusing on an area needing development.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Vallance, Kiani and Nayfeh, Open Design of Manufacturing Equipment, CIRP 1st Int. Conference on Agile, 2001
  6. ^ a b R. Ryan Vallance, Bazaar Design of Nano and Micro Manufacturing Equipment, 2000
  7. ^
  8. ^ J. M Pearce, C. Morris Blair, K. J. Laciak, R. Andrews, A. Nosrat and I. Zelenika-Zovko, “3-D Printing of Open Source Appropriate Technologies for Self-Directed Sustainable Development”, Journal of Sustainable Development 3(4), pp. 17-29 (2010). [1]

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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