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Open design is the application of open source methods to the creation of physical products, machines and systems.

Sources of the open design movementEdit

The principles of open design are derived from the Free Software and Open Source movements. [1] In 1997 Eric S. Raymond, Tim O'Reilly and Larry Augustin established "Open Source" as an alternative expression to "Free Software," and in 1997 Bruce Perens published the Open Source Definition. In late 1998, Dr. Sepehr Kiani (a PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT) realized that designers could benefit from Open Source policies, and in early 1999 he convinced Dr. Ryan Vallance and Dr. Samir Nayfeh of the potential benefits of open design in machine design applications.[2]. Together they established the Open Design Foundation (ODF) as a non-profit corporation, and set out to develop an Open Design Definition.[2].

The idea of open design was taken up, either simultaneously or subsequently, by several other groups and individuals. The principles of open design are closely similar to those of Open source hardware design, which emerged in March 1998 when Reinoud Lamberts of the University of Delft proposed on his “Open Design Circuits” website the creation of a hardware design community in the spirit of free software. [3]

Current directions of the open design movementEdit

The open design movement currently unites two trends. On the one hand, people apply their skills and time to projects for the common good, perhaps where funding or commercial interest is lacking, for developing countries or to help to spread ecological or cheaper technologies. At the other end of the scale, open design may provide a framework for developing very advanced projects and technologies that might be beyond the resource of any one company or country and involve people who, without the copyleft mechanism, might not otherwise collaborate.

Open machine design as compared to open-source softwareEdit

The "open design" movement is currently fairly nascent but holds great potential for the future. In some respects design and engineering are even more suited to open collaborative development than the increasing common open-source software projects, because with 3D models and photographs the concept can often be understood visually. It is not even necessary that the project members speak the same languages to usefully collaborate.

However there are certain barriers to overcome for open design when compared to software development where there are mature and widely used tools available and the duplication and distribution of code cost next to nothing. Creating, testing and modifying physical designs is not quite so straightforward because of the effort, time and cost required to create the physical artefact; although with access to emerging flexible computer-controlled manufacturing techniques the complexity and effort of construction can be significantly reduced (see tools mentioned in the fab lab article).

Open design organizationsEdit

Open design is currently a fledgling movement consisting of several unrelated or loosely related initiates. Many of these organizations are single, funded projects, while a few organizations are focusing on an area needing development.

Semi-Open standards Edit

These links relate to open standards but are not truly open in the free and open-source sense due to license restrictions.

  • Open Design Alliance The Open Design Alliance is an association of software developers and users committed to promoting open, industry-standard formats for the exchange of CAD data.
  • IntelliCAD Technology Consortium is an independent organization committed to promoting a cooperatively developed CAD engine. The IntelliCAD Technology Consortium is one of several Founding Members of the Open Design Alliance.




See also Edit


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