How can Open Design help you?

Open Design is the sharing of designs and instructions to build physical objects such as consumer products or industrial machines. Open Design most commonly used a creative commons or a copyleft license to allow people to share and alter designs. It’s based on the Open Source movement but is focused on tangible objects rather than software. With the rise of desktop manufacturing and 3D printers, Open Design has become a popular way for people to share their designs with the world. It’s now possible to create a part in a free CAD program like Google SketchUp, post it to Thingiverse and let people you’ve never met print out the part. It’s pretty cool.

This has also led to the rise of communities that have designed, shared and built complex machines such as guitars, laptops and even 3D printers. Open Design usually falls into 2 categories. Number 1, designing products to benefit society. Either for use in developing nations or to lower the cost of the technology and make it available to more people. The second reason is to undertake projects that no single person or  organization has the resources to undertake, but is possible through collaboration.

One of the coolest Open Design projects I’ve seen is the RepRap project. The RepRap is a free 3D printer that can print plastic parts. And as the website says “Because the RepRap is mostly built of plastic, it can be used to make more copies of itself.” Machines that can replicate themselves have the potential to revolutionize society…or lead to the overthrow of the human race.
One of the more unique aspects of Open Design, especially when combined with Peer Production is the design and creation of complex niche products.

Because of the high costs associated with developing and building stuff, the only way to make them cheaper is to make a lot of them. This isn’t an option if you’re designing something for a small market and greatly increases the cost of the object. Think of the difference between a handmade sports car and a Honda Civic.

Next post: