Open Hardware – A Future of Mass Innovation

“Open Source Hardware is a term for tangible artefacts — machines, devices, or other physical things — whose design has been released to the public in such a way that anyone can make, modify, distribute, and use those things.” OSHWA

8th August 2016 News

Open hardware has certain complications when it comes down to legal matters, but since we’re not lawyers, let’s focus on the amazing, disruptive effect it can have on the future of… everything. There are a hundred reasons to love open hardware but today we are going to share with you 3 of our favourites…


1. More Development, Better Development

Open hardware encourages people to develop tangible solutions together. Time and time again we see products that didn’t reach their full potential. Some ran out of resources to develop the product, others were simply missing an ingredient that could have made it a game-changer to an industry. Open hardware has an answer to these issues – and the answer is collaboration.



Imagine diverse, specialised teams working on the same project. Engineers can mix with product designers and software developers, to achieve results that could never have been realised before. Knowledge is openly shared, which also adds to the skillset of each individual and creates this amazing decentralised way of working.

Yes, it means that people will have your blueprints and can potentially copy your work, but if you take a look at the success of products like the Arduino, you can begin to see the light when it comes to open hardware.


2. Unprecedented Global Access

Open hardware allows anyone, anywhere to innovate. Source files to exciting technology projects are no longer hidden behind closed doors, but they are open to everyone. What this means is that more people get involved, which echoes the above point about better development. But what it also does is eliminate the barriers to entry.



You don’t need a degree or a lengthy portfolio to be part of a global technology project. Simply contribute, collaborate, learn and take pride in creating great things!


3. Social Benefits

This is something that is often overlooked, but to us it’s a very important factor of open hardware. Let’s be honest, seeing amazing innovation from big corporations is great – but seeing similar things developed by diverse age groups, cultures and backgrounds is just so much more satisfying.



More importantly, it has a positive effect on each individual involved and leads to a wave of personal development.


Wevolver & HACKberry

So we’ve taken a look at why we love open hardware, now let’s take a look at it in action…

Wevolver is a group of open hardware enthusiasts who have created an online platform that enables decentralised collaboration on technology projects. It allows those who want to share a project and those who want to be involved in a project, to collaborate and share on an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. We took a look at the Wevolver projects going on around the world and we were amazed not just at the scope of work but at the talent that we can see on these collaborative projects. It was hard to pick a favourite but the one that stood out is exiii’s HACKberry project. The HACKberry is a 3D printable electric prosthetic arm created by exiii Inc, based in Tokyo.



“The hand works by detecting when nerve and muscle tissue is stimulated by signals from the brain and sends that data to an onboard microcontroller to translate into hand and arm movements. The system enables users of the prosthesis to open and close the hand and even control individual fingers”.

The project was shared with the world through the Wevolver platform, which allowed anyone to pick it up and modify it to their requirements. It also opened up the area of product development – and the open hardware trend isn’t that people steal designs, but they contribute to the project, with a huge appreciation for the designers input.

A Wevolver user has even printed a custom aluminium version of HACKberry for a Reddit user with an amputee brother – doesn’t get much more inspiring than that! This is just one of many projects you can find at Wevolver – we’d love to see you getting involved and you can check them out here.


An Opportunity for Universities

We’re beginning to see Universities getting involved in open hardware, which is great but we’d love to see more. The way things are going, decentralised development has a very big and very important future. More and more inventions are being made at University level, so imagine the effect open hardware could have in terms of product development, quality and success.

Some people argue that because patents are eliminated, that this can have a negative effect on entrepreneurship and new businesses stemming from Universities. What we at PrintLab think is the complete opposite.

Open hardware + inspired students = amazing products + successful businesses