Writing in Electronic Design, David Tarrant and Andrew Back confirm that the greatest success to date in OSHW (open-source hardware) has been the Atmel-powered Arduino, primarily because it established a vibrant ecosystem. As Tarrant and Back note, all the hardware design files were made available, so both Makers and engineers could study the design and extend it for their own purposes in a commercial or non-commercial context.
“These files were combined with an accessible and equally flexible software platform. [Clearly], Arduino has benefited from derivative and complementary third-party hardware and is today a growing brand with a strong reputation for quality,” the two explained.
“Following its example, hardware companies are increasingly seeing OSHW as an opportunity to seed the market and educational establishments with their technology. Development kit design files are increasingly available under open-source licenses. And as was the case with software, more reusable components are becoming available.”
“Although open-source hardware has to date largely been seen as existing at the simpler end of the electronics design spectrum, it embraces two major assets within the engineering community—goodwill and collective intelligence—and is being recognized as an important movement with increasing opportunities across both industry and education,” the two added.
Casey Hare of EDN expressed similar sentiments.
“Open-source hardware is going mainstream. I always knew educators, academics, hobbyists and makers would push open-source hardware and software,” he opined. “Big companies and professional engineers would stay away until it was mature, robust, didn’t waste much time and added lots of value. [Clearly], that day has arrived.”
Indeed, Wilson Lee, Newark element14’s director of product marketing, told Hare the OSHW trend speaks to the importance of ease of access and use – as a strong community can help bring abstract ideas and designs to life.
“Engineers have historically been hesitant to fully embrace open source, but the sheer availability of open-source tools and resources has mitigated many of the risks associated with designing in open source for commercial use,” he concluded.