Tag Archives: hardware

The Open Hardware Toolchain Survey

Apologies for the silence. This blog got put on an unannounced hiatus as my new project gobbled up all of my free time.

If you’re reading this then the odds are pretty good that you already know what open source hardware is and why documentation is important.

So, you are the perfect person to follow this link and provide your input to the Open Hardware Toolchain Survey. Anonymous. 10-15 minutes max.

Not only will your perspective help to shape future hardware documentation tools, it will help guide the discussion at the Open Source Hardware Association’s (OSHWA) Documentation Jam in NYC April 26-29.

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Lots Of Links

Here are a lot of links I think are relevant to open hardware. The first is that apparently RepRap has its own magazine now!

Zero Cost Modeling of Space Frames – Julian Edgar demonstrates how to predict the failure mode of a complex frame (in this case a recumbent bicycle) without FEA software. The process involves making a scale model by soldering together copper wire then pulling on it to see where it bends or breaks. It’s a quick and easy way to see where the structure is mathematically weak.

XYZ SpaceFrame Vehicles – This is a principle for building modular bicycles and a few functional real-world examples. Here’s a pdf describing how to make one of the bicycles.

Open Source Government & Engaged Citizens: The Death Star Inspiration – Matt Micene writes, “Innovation doesn’t always result in direct business value, but can improve business in general. Innovating in the open means you can garner additional expertise you need to transform a marginal value into a direct value.”

A Guide For 3D Printing With a RepRap – ArvidJense has put together an infographic to help makers build things, specifically musical instruments, but the ideas can be applied to anything.

Someone Needs To Buy Makerbot Already – Steve Symington is talking about financial investment stuffs, but the interesting thing is that Makerbot only seems to have attracted serious financial interest after (or based on the promise of) abandoning open source principles.

Party Robotics – They are a startup focused on making open source drink mixing machines.

Using OpenSCAD for 2D Machining – Matthew Venn gives a brief overview of his process for modeling a multi-piece part in OpenSCAD and then using the projection() function to export DXFs for CNC milling.

Designing For Laser Cutting In OpenSCAD – This is a similar (but more extensive) set of instructions from a Dutch FabLab.

Make Your Own Arduino – streetjerk shows you how to put together a thru-hole Arduino from raw materials. This is particularly useful if, like streetjerk, you want to incorporate additional components (like a motor driver) into the board itself rather than use I/O ports.

Prepper Movement Embracing 3D Printing – PosserteusMaximus has compiled a list of links on how the preppers/survivalist community is becoming aware of, using and contributing to open hardware and 3D printing.

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iFixit Literally Opens Hardware

Part of the point of open hardware is, you know, the open part. If you can’t open it, then it’s not open. iFixit tears apart popular consumer products, then rates them 1-10 based on how easy they are to work with. Apple seems to get pretty low scores (go figure) while Google seems to get pretty high scores (clips are better than glue). They also have a huge user community uploading instructions for repairing all sorts of things.

Continue reading

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The Burrito Bomber Is Exactly What It Sounds Like

Yes, it’s a drone that delivers a burrito directly to wherever you are. It’s open source and you can find all the files on Darwin Aerospace’s website, or the github repository.

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VehicleFORGE – DARPA’s Open Source Hardware Competition Is Open For Registration

I’m gonna start this post with a little bit of background. I’m a developer on various open source hardware projects, others and my own. Hardware has more barriers to entry than software, particularly when it comes to distributed collaboration. It’s not a matter of exchanging text files; you have to work with images, CAD files, videos, documents, etc and then there’s the problem of incompatible versions of multimedia. Even when everybody uses the same file formats, it can be difficult to convey all of the relevant information. And if you change anything it can be a huge issue. Then there’s the ever-present problem of turning the design into an actual physical thing.

What the open source hardware community needs is a common set of tools, but not just a few tools, an entire toolchain. I tried to work out a common file format and quickly realized that it’s not possible. You need a common database format, and not just a database, you need tools that can edit the project files without losing all the relationships in the database. Basically, you need an end-to-end development environment that links any random developer with all other developers, using identical file formats, and identical tools, that eventually produces a digital description of the machine that can be qualified and fabricated virtually.

It’s a huge undertaking. Without an end-to-end environment each piece is only marginally useful. The chicken and egg problem seemed almost insurmountable.

However, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) had the same thought, and they threw a lot of money at it. In an attempt to cut the development time of military vehicles by a factor of five, DARPA has created a complete, web-based, virtual development environment…oh and they’re releasing it under an open source license.

It’s called VehicleFORGE and for its first trick it will host a year-long, three-stage competition to design the Marine Corps’ next amphibious infantry fighting vehicle. It’s called the FANG Design Challenge and it’s open to any “U.S. person.” Yes, ANYONE (who doesn’t violate ITAR restrictions). All you have to do is register and, when the competition goes live on 14 January 2013, you’ll be able to design a vehicle using cutting-edge open source tools.

I just registered and I can assure you that, after poking around the members area for a while, VehicleFORGE looks polished. It’s only got a few controls, but they’re exactly what you need, they work intuitively, and it’s an overall slick experience. The only stuff that’s live at the moment seems to be the social network stuff (competitors and teams).

Speaking of which, if you’d like to join Team Openalia, just register and do a quick search or follow the link.

I’m fairly certain that the competition will be won by teams uploading a lot of high-performance parts that aren’t included in DARPA’s list of supplied components. However, participating will be a lot of fun. Lets see how well we can do against the other non-professional teams!

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The Featherweight Book Scanner – Open Hardware by Dany Qumsiyeh

This is an open source book scanner, which is cool. But you wanna know what the coolest part is?

Okay, I’ll tell you. The coolest part is that this is an open hardware project that actually makes it easy to access not only the design of the machine but also the rationale behind the design. It’s all written up in a very approachable manner in this *.pdf. Click here for the page Google hosted the file on.

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AtFAB – Open Source Furniture

AtFAB is hoping that you will think about having your next table, chair or shelf cut out on a CNC machine.

Their furniture is licensed under a Creative Commons non-commercial license, so you can do whatever you want with it as long as you don’t sell it. If you want to sell it, they seem open to the idea of giving you an individual commercial license.

Balancing openness with the inherent need to pay for hardware development is tricky. For example, AtFAB will give you the DXF files for the furniture, but only after you exchange a couple emails and sign up for their mailing list. That seems fair, especially considering they have a nifty little app that lets you change some of the parameters in the files before you download them. You can stretch the chair out into a bench or adjust the cutlines to account for different material thicknesses.

Open design has been around just as long as open hardware, and the two have a lot of overlap since you need something physical to design on. That being said, I’m split on whether or not it makes any sense to “design” open hardware. On the one hand it never hurts to make something look prettier. On the other hand, open source designs tend to be utilitarian (because they tend to be cheap and require as few manufacturing steps as possible) so trying to “design” them starts to look an awful lot like trying too hard. An angular little chair is still an angular little chair after you paint an orange stripe on it.

Additional links:

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The Prusa i3 Is A RepRap That You Can Flat Pack

You may or may not already know who Josef Prusa is. If you’re reading this…odds are you know.

He’s taking his “3rd Iteration” (i3) RepRap to the Open Hardware Summit, and the coolest thing is that it breaks down into two flat sections!

Finally it’s easy to travel with a 3D printer. Don’t print on your desktop, print WORLDWIDE! [from Josef Prusa's twitter]

For those who are interested in the ever increasing diversity of the RepRap family tree, the i3 seems to be based mostly on the design of Nop Head’s Mendel90.

There isn’t much information available at the moment, but it looks like Prusa has created some special components, particularly in the extruder. Here are some notes, and the github. And here it is printing a giant vase…

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