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Online technologies blur the line in the manufacturing inviting for collaboration and distributed production. The production of one of the fastest growing companies in Sweden, Midsummer, is distributed. At the same time, major tech companies like Google, Facebook, IBM implement open source models for various robotics, AI and other projects. Just in October 2018, IBM acquired a Linux-based open-source Red Hat. Evidently, there is a new model of socio-economic production based on open source principles. The trend of open source hardware gains it power paving up the way for open source manufacturing.
The path from physical
The rapid changes in consumer demand, technological possibilities, supply chain, and economics of production, push companies to fundamentally reinvent their approach to manufacturing. High demand for personalized and customized solutions triggers new flexible business models. According to McKinsey Design Index, the potential for design-driven growth is colossal in both product- and service-based sectors. Being able to be real-time customer-centric is a potential of open source soft- and hardware. Open source enables two-way communication between the company and consumers early on the development stages. Consumers become more educated with the businesses and expect to be able to express needs in a simple manner. Ability to involve users in the production stage allows reducing production costs and time. Robert Pressman, author of Software Engineering: A Practitioner’s Approach, found out that for every dollar spent on resolving issues at the product design stage translates in $10 during development, and $100 or more when addressing the problem after the release. Moreover, when a company is not able to deliver the demand, consumers can take it in their hands.
The new opportunities of technology have turned in the new culture Makers Movement. Makers movement is a social environment for active learning of the hardware solutions, the industry that develops too rapidly for a traditional education system. According to Matthew Crawford, author of “Shop Class as Soulcraft” and fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the development of the movement is a response to a growing sense of disconnection from the physical world. “I think [the maker movement] is tapping into a really basic fact about us as human beings,” he says. “From infancy we learn about the world by manipulating it, by sort of poking it and seeing how it pokes back.” Altogether, the global open source service market is expected to reach $32.95 billion by 2022 according to research and markets.
On example of open-source hardware is electronics platform Arduino. Similar to Raspberry Pi, Arduino can perform various tasks and read inputs depending on its makers’ design. Its technology is behind thousands of projects from everyday objects to complex scientific instruments. Massimo Banzi, one of the co-founders of Arduino and a teacher for interactive design, says: “The first people who used Arduino were designers, artists, musicians, performers. It started off as a highly creative tool and then it became a tool for people to also innovate on products. Arduino enabled thousands of people to start using electronics as a tool to innovate and create companies.” Arduino is more than a DIY project.
Tech giant like Apple and Intel use platform for rapid prototyping of their products. Nowadays, the combination of Arduino and Blockchain, Brockduino, is starting a new business model Hardware-As-A-Service. “With our solution, any device, from electric vehicle charging stations to LED lighting, vending machines or commercial air conditioning systems (HVAC), can now be blockchain-enabled and use trusted smart contracts and cryptocurrency to transact and make new performance-based business models finally viable,” says Marco Graziano, the CEO and founder of Visible Energy. This model will allow customers to only pay for what they use while manufacturers build better and more durable products.
3D printed robot
Gael Langevin, a french sculptor and designer, is a father to the first Open Source 3D printed life-size robot InMoov. Starting with publishing the design of prosthetic hand in 2012, Gael has extended the parts of “human” body to the full replica. The design is completely open to the public and allows customizing the robot to a variety of tasks. InMoov brothers serve as guides in zoos, museums, interpreters, and on other easy-to-communicate positions worldwide. In fact, the benefit of open-source robotics is that mechanical hardware enables infinite variability in terms of size, shape, materials, and manufacturing processes. Having an access to a 3D printer, it creates a space for rapid prototyping technologies. Francesco Mondada, a robotist from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland believes that open robotics will give a new drive towards open science. “More and more people say you don’t have only to communicate your results but also how you got your results,” he says. “This is pushing open-source software and hardware.”
When talking about open robotics it is not only humanoids. The California-based company OpenROV designs open-source underwater drones. A low-cost telerobotic submarine makes underwater exploration and education affordable. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California, has over 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. Therefore, the low-cost water drones could be a potential breakthrough for identifying the polluted areas and cleaning them. At the same time, the drones are able to go to the ocean depth and provide with valuable information about deep ecosystems. A similar project is called OSUG: Open-Source Underwater Glider. Over 80 thousand people are following the product with its detailed instructions on Hackaday platform.
According to an annual survey sponsored by the Eclipse IoT Working Group, AGILE IoT, IEEE, and the Open Mobile Alliance, over 70% of IoT solutions run using open source operating systems. Moreover, all the supercomputers from the TOP500 Supercomputer list use open-source Linux. The choice of open source systems is gaining popularity for being a secure option. As those systems are being tested by the community and have no centralized authority. Open source hardware allows users to design the device and components according to the needs of the project or product. The transparency enables customers to verify devices’ security by themselves of with the help of the community.