Hardware

Over the last three decades we have seen how collaborative production in software development communities has made available all sorts of software under non-exclusive conditions as Free Software. Certain trends suggest that in the coming years we may see something similar in the production of physical goods. Tangible goods are of course different from intangible goods such as software. We can’t download hardware as we can software. But we can certainly download the CAD design files needed to manufacture the hardware. In hackerspaces, FabLabs and community workshops, or even at home, people are building their own machines, ever more sophisticated while sharing the innovations through global communities.

Some claim these machines and products are not as good as their commercial versions from large manufacturing firms and DIY should be seen as limited to hobbyists and amateurs. And though this may still in part be the case, already serious products are being produced and, what is more, we can start to appreciate the potential this has for new forms of production, re-localisation and the local economy, and sustainability for the near future.

Definition

Free hardware design refers to a design which can be freely copied, distributed, modified, and manufactured. It does not imply that the design cannot also be sold, or that any hardware implementation of the design will be free of cost. Libre hardware design refers to the same class of design as free hardware design, but tries to make it clear that the word free refers to freedom, not price. The term sounds very clumsy to many English ears, but is of course natural for Spanish, French and Portuguese speakers (and translations of it are natural to speakers of most languages, which do not use one word in both free beer and free speech).

Other terms are used to refer to the same or similar concepts, such as open design (which guarantees open access to the design files, but not necessarily its modification and distribution), open hardware (which is also a registered trademark), or open source hardware (which originally referred to computer hardware, but has recently been redefined to mean the same as free hardware). Some people also refer to copyleft hardware, which refers to a subset of free hardware, applying the copyleft clause that requires sharing modified designs under the same free license.

Resources

Get Involved

This is a very important domain for the FKI. There are various ways to get involved. Subscribe to some of the active mailing lists (open manufacturing, open source ecology, OSE Europe, OHANDA). Build your own 3D printer, Arduino and/or join a hackerspace. Propose ideas, strategies and plans that we can work on together.

References

This page is a static version of the collaboratively edited wiki page.