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Welcome to definitive guide to open source hardware projects in 2009. First up – What is open source hardware? These are projects in which the creators have decided to completely publish all the source, schematics, firmware, software, bill of materials, parts list, drawings and “board” files to recreate the hardware – they also allow any use, including commercial. Similar to open source software like Linux, but this hardware centric.

Each year we do a guide to all open source hardware and this year there are over 125 unique projects/kits in 19 categories, up from about 60 in 2008, more than doubling the projects out there! – it’s incredible! Many are familiar with Arduino (shipping over 100,000 units, estimated) but there are many other projects just as exciting and filled with amazing communities – we think we’ve captured nearly all of them in this list. Some of these projects and kits are available from MAKE others from the makers themselves or other hardware manufacturers – but since it’s open source hardware you can make any of these yourself, start a business, everything is available, that’s the point.

This year, I am asking for your help – the Open source hardware page on Wikipedia is missing more projects that it actually has total at the moment. If any readers out there want to help out, review all the projects we’ve listed and please add them to the Wikipedia page so it’s a more complete resource. Also, many projects on the Wikipedia page are not “Open source hardware” but that will likely be debated, at the least – all of the projects in this guide are considered open source hardware by those who actually does open source hardware it seems.

In this version of the guide on MAKE I will link to the product page and if it’s sold in the Maker Shed there is an additional link to the Maker Shed if you’d like to support OSH and get a kit or project. For 2009, this guide became so large that it cannot fit in to one post on MAKE so it will be divided up in to sections, 18 of them:

  • 3D printing – Open source hardware is now making things. Physical things you can print out, over the last few year 2-3 projects have really gained momentum and made some wonderful advances in low-cost desktop 3D printing. Projects include Fab@Home, MakerBot and RepRap. A new project was also added this year, s DIY open source construction set for experimental personal fabrication (view projects).
  • Arduino – Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. Perhaps one of the most successful open source hardware projects to date. Dozens of projects are included in the guide (view projects).
  • Arduino shields – This is a new category mostly because there are so many open source hardware shields in 2009. These “shields” add music, internet, GPS and additional functions (view projects).
  • Blinky projects – Open source hardware tends to have a lot of projects that blinky, pulse, and light up. It’s a hard category to define exactly, so I’m calling it blinky projects. From a “Larsen scanner” (cylon) to making your bicycle spell words in the air, all of these projects are filled with LEDs (view projects).
  • Clocks and watches - This year there are some really timely additions to the list, clocks! From a retro Russian tube clock to an open source watch. These time pieces are open and timely (view projects).
  • Culture jamming – These projects are not only open source hardware, they aim to open ours minds a bit. A cell phone jammer, a universal device that turns off TVs and an open source homeland security non-lethal weapon (view projects).
  • Development platforms and tools – These are tools and platforms, a wide category – but filled with chip programmers, mini-computers, debugging hardware and tons of project to – make other projects! (view projects).
  • Energy, Power and Green – These open source hardware projects power things or have something to do with powering devices, saving the planet and monitoring power/energy in some way (view projects).
  • Fun, games and entertainment – These open source hardware projects that are more fun than anything else, from net connect set top boxes to fun games (and gaming systems) you can make yourself (view projects).
  • Imaging – There’s only project, but it’s a great start. Open source cameras for everyone aren’t here yet, but there’s one project that is pioneering the field… of vision! (view projects).
  • Medical and bio – The open source hardware projects are medical or biological. While this category only has a few I expect this to be the largest category in 5 years or less. Open sourcing medical equipment around the world seems like the most logical step in the evolution of open source hardware, check out some of the first projects! (view projects).
  • Music – Music is one of the largest categories: synthesizers, guitar amps, MP3 players to an arcade MIDI device. These projects not only are open, they’re musical (one of the old forms of “open information”) so that’s twice the goodness rolled in to one (view projects).
  • Processors – You can actually make and fabricate your own chips, I have met anyone who does this but there are a couple huge projects that openly share CPUs and on-chip interconnections. Living room chip fabs are a few years away (well, Jeri has one) but here’s a glimpse (view projects).
  • Religious – Open source hardware has made inroads in to religious from an LED menorah to a blinky Christmas card. These projects almost belong in the “Blinky projects” category, but I thought they should get their own. I suspect more religions will be open sourcing their hardware soon (view projects).
  • Robotics – From controlling motors to a robot arm you can make yourself, robotics is a new and growing category in open source hardware. While there’s not a ton of projects many robotics groups are using Arduinos (FIRST is now) so I think we’ll see this category double and triple in 2010, here are some of the early pioneers (view projects).
  • Telecommunications – These projects use the telephone system in some way or are related to cell phones (or in one example, are cell phones). It’s popular to open source the software on phones now, and slowly but surely we might see more phone systems go this way to if there are benefits for the companies and the customers (view projects).
  • Transportation – There’s just one in the transportation category, an electronic fuel injection project. While there is always talk of an “open source” automobile, there mostly design projects and not a project with downloads, files, software, etc – in a few years we might see a physical open source hardware car however, there seems to be a lot of interest (view projects).
  • UAVs – A Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is an aircraft that has the capability of fully autonomous flight, without a pilot in control. Amateur UAVs are non-military and non-commercial. They typically fly under “recreational” exceptions to FAA regulations on UAVs, so long as the pilots/programmers keep them within tight limits on altitude and distance. Usually the UAV is controlled manually by Radio Control (RC) at take-off and landing, and switched into autonomous mode only at a safe altitude (view projects).
  • Wireless and GPS – From an open GPS tracker to a small wireless device that works with the Arduino, this is a fairly new category and likely one that will grow as more spectrum frees up (view projects).

Some of the projects are likely “open source hardware” but the files aren’t all up yet, at the time of this writing the maker was contacted to make sure they put a license up for clarification, this will be noted and updated. There will undoubtably be a few mistakes in a collection this large, hit refresh, we’ll be updating it all weekend. Also, there’s a very good chance we missed something, post them up in the comments and we will add them if they’re OSH. When we release this article each year there are always a few days of adding, removing and editing.

A great year for OSH, have fun reading the guide!

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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