The Egg-Bot CNC art robot
Welcome to “The Ultimate Open Source Hardware Gift Guide 2010.” In the early days of Open Source Hardware (5-6 years ago), it was possible to collect all the projects and do one gift guide. Eventually dozens of guides were needed for the hundreds of projects. And now, there are so many projects it’s not really possible for any one person, or even one site, to list them all in any timely or reasonable way. New projects are released each week, there are thousands of them, many aren’t public or well known yet, this is all great news — 2010 was a great year for OSHW! Dozens of companies are making millions of dollars each, all supporting (and being supported by) the open source hardware ecosystem.
Previous OSHW guides:
- Open source hardware 2009 – The definitive guide to open source hardware projects in 2009
- Open source hardware 2008 – The definitive guide to open source hardware projects in 2008
- Open source hardware 2007 – Open Source Hardware Gift Guide
- The Open Source Gift Guide – 2006: Open source hardware, software, and more for the holidays!
With so many projects, there’s really only one solution, this year, I’m just going to pick my favorite OSHW projects. These are projects and products that I think make great gifts and uphold the ideals of open source hardware, some are available from MAKE, some are not — MAKE supports OSHW, so we try to carry as much as possible. Some may need to be made and are not for sale, that’s even better. Technically, if it’s open source hardware if you can make every single one of these projects and even sell them! Each project is linked to the original product/project page. If MAKE sells it, that’s also included.
Since I am not including every open source hardware project, be sure to post your favorites in the comments. Just keep this in mind —They all have one thing in common, they’re open source hardware and this means something very specific. What’s that you ask?
Open source hardware is hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make and sell the design or hardware based on that design. The hardware’s source, the design from which it is made, is available in the preferred format for making modifications to it. Ideally, open source hardware uses readily-available components and materials, standard processes, open infrastructure, unrestricted content, and open-source design tools to maximize the ability of individuals to make and use hardware. Open source hardware gives people the freedom to control their technology while sharing knowledge and encouraging commerce through the open exchange of designs.
That’s what we came up with at the Open Source Hardware summit (and beyond) as an overview. There’s also a detailed definition to check out, a work in progress, as it will always be. An easy way to know if something is open source hardware is to ask: Are there source/schematics/layout files? Is commercial use allowed? Although there are some subtle details, “what-ifs,” and loopholes we all nerd-fight about, that’s pretty much it.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s do this thing.
The Arduino is one the best examples of open source hardware — it’s a great gift for anyone who wants to get started with electronics and it’s also useful, even for the seasoned professional engineer who needs something to quickly prototype. 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. It’s estimated (by me) that there are over 200,000 Arduinos in the world right now, from original ones to clones & variants. The Arduino project is a success by every metric most reasonable people can come up with. There are dozens of flavors, all unique and adding value to the project.
The USB-powered Beagle Board is a low-cost, fanless single board computer that unleashes laptop-like performance and expandability without the bulk, expense, or noise of typical desktop machines. Good one to consider if you need something more powerful than an Arduino but don’t need to do any analog input. The BeagleBoard also does video out, good for embedded kiosks, etc.
More: Product/project information. Price: $149
BUG is a modular, open source system for building devices. The slimmer and sleeker BUG 2.0 has a simpler, more intuitive interface and a beautiful color scheme to match. Under the hood, you’ll experience improved computing performance, extended battery life, and 720p HD video, thanks to a new BUGvideo module and dedicated 24-bit parallel video slot. Additionally, you’ll benefit from the widely-used, widely-supported Angstrom Linux OS and OpenJDK JVM that come standard. The year, BUG had their devices pre-certified to work on all the major wireless high speed phone networks, this means you could get one and have a functional device on these traditionally closed networks.
More: Product/project information. Price: $499 and up
Chumby Hacker Board
New one this year, chumby is now offering a “hacker” board, which is the guts of the chumby One, but modified to be more hacker-friendly: it comes with three high-speed USB host ports, uses the power connector from the Sony PSP (instead of the weird, hard to find connector on the chumby One), and incorporates a variety of headers, such as Arduino-style shield headers and a 44-pin breakout header that gives you access to a lot of digital I/O and some analog inputs. There’s even a four-directional switch on-board and some LEDs so you can do quick hacks that don’t require a video display for user feedback. Speaking of the display, while this board doesn’t come standard with an LCD, it does provide composite video output via a 4-wire 1/8â€³ jack so you can, by using an iPod video cable, plug the chumby hacker board into any TV that supports a composite video input.
More: Product/project information. Price: $89.00
Another new one for 2010! Software meet hardware. Netduino is an open source electronics platform using the .NET Micro Framework. The board features a 32-bit microcontroller and a rich development environment, making it a perfect solution for engineers and hobbyists alike. Interface with switches, sensors, LEDs, serial devices, and more. Netduino offers 20 GPIOs combined with SPI, I2C, 2 UARTs (1 RTS/CTS), 4 PWM channels and 6 ADC channels. .NET Micro Framework combines the ease of high-level coding and the raw features of microcontrollers. Enjoy event-based programming, multi-threading, line-by-line debugging, breakpoints, and more. Netduino is also pin-compatible with Arduino shields. Third party drivers are required for some Arduino shields.
Propeller Platform USB
New in 2010 too! The Propeller Platform USB is an open source platform for building your own electronics projects. Design your project in Spin, a custom programming language perfect for beginners. Collaborate with your PC, built-in USB lets you update programs or share data with your computer. Interact with the real world, 32 I/O pins let you read tons of sensors and control multiple devices. Output video or advanced audio, Built-in video hardware makes video easy, microSD lets you include Hi-Fi audio samples. Expand with any breadboard or protoboard,
More: Product/project information. Price: $49.95
Arduino shields and add-ons are projects that enhance the Arduino by adding additional functionality such as music, GPS, internet, and more. They are added on top of the Arduino and some can be stacked. With the popularity of the Arduino increasing all the time, there’s an entire market devote to shields. Here are a few of my favorites (all open source). And if you’re reading this and happen to make closed source shields, stop it. Although it’s just my personal opinion, It seems we’ll all do better if you add value when you join a community and ecosystem. If you’re making shields and selling them for an open source hardware project like the Arduino, please consider releasing your shields under the same license as the Arduino. It seems only fair, right? If you’re making a profit off open source hardware, why not give others the opportunity to do the same? OK, on with the shields…
The LoL Shield is a charlieplexed LED matrix for the Arduino. The LEDs are individually addressable, so you can use it to display anything in a 9 x 14 grid. Scroll text, play games, display images, or anything else you want to do. Please note, this is a shield and requires an Arduino for control.
More: Product/project information. Price: $25.00 Get one in the Maker Shed!
New this year! The ultimate open source prototyping shield for Arduino & Netduino microcontrollers. Having a prototyping shield is a must-have accessory for anyone wanting to go beyond blinking an LED with their micro-controller. If you want to do more, you will need to build a circuit, and if you want to build circuit, you will want a prototyping shield like the MakerShield.
Arduino is a great starting point for electronics, and with a motor shield, it can also be a nice tidy platform for robotics and mechatronics. Here is a design for a full-featured motor shield that will be able to power many simple to medium-complexity projects. One of the best shields for doing robotics and more with Arduino.
Updated version this year! The Arduino Ethernet Shield allows an Arduino board to connect to the internet. It’s based on the Wiznet W5100 Ethernet chip. The Wiznet W5100 provides a network (IP) stack capable of both TCP and UDP. It supports up to four simultaneous socket connections. Use the Ethernet library to write sketches which connect to the internet using the shield. The Ethernet shield connects to an Arduino board using long wire-wrap headers which extend through the shield. This keeps the pin layout intact and allows another shield to be stacked on top.
Data logger shield
Here’s a handy Arduino shield for people who need a dedicated and well-designed data logging shield. It’s inexpensive but well-rounded design. Not only is it easy to assemble and customize, it also comes with great documentation and libraries. You can get going quickly, saving data to files on any FAT16 or FAT32 formatted SD card, to be read by any plotting, spreadsheet or analysis program.
3D printers & robots
The Egg-Bot is an open source art robot that can draw on spherical or egg-shaped objects from the size of a ping pong ball to that of a small grapefruit, roughly 1.25 to 4.25 inches in diameter (3 – 10 cm). The Egg -Bot is super adjustable, and is designed to draw on all kinds of things that are normally “impossible” to print on. Not just eggs, but ping pong balls, light bulbs, mini pumpkins, and even things like wine glasses (with a bit of work). See the photos above for some examples of personalized golf balls, Christmas ornaments, light bulbs, and (yes) eggs. The Egg-Bot chassis is made of tough fiberglass, with integrated heat sinks for the included motors. The pen and egg motors are high-torque precision stepping motors, and the pen lift mechanism is a quiet and reliable servo motor. The Egg-Bot kit is easy to assemble in a couple of hours, and only requires a couple of basic tools like miniature Phillips-head and flathead screwdrivers. No soldering required. You’ll also need a recent-vintage computer with an available USB port (Mac, Windows, or Linux), plus internet access to download assembly instructions and necessary software.
More: Product/project information. Price: $195.00
New this year (updated), the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic 3D Printer kit that you assemble to create the latest in cutting-edge personal manufacturing technology. The MakerBot Thing-O-Matic 3D printer comes with the MakerBot MK5 plastruder which will give you thousands of hours of trouble-free printing. I’ve watched MakerBot grow and expand over the last couple of years, the gang over these is running a great business and keeping their open source hardware ideals.
More: Product/project information. Price: $1,225.00
The DIYLILCNC project is a set of plans for an inexpensive, fully functional 3-axis CNC mill that can be built by an individual with basic shop skills and tool access. CNC devices are used to fabricate physical objects with a high degree of precision. Some CNC devices, including the DIYLILCNC, feature a gantry-mounted cutting tool (like a router) that can move in two or more directions. The operation of the tool is controlled by a computer, which is tasked with translating a digital design into actual tool movement.
More: Product/project information. Price: DIY $500+
ArduPilot is a full-featured autopilot based on the Arduino open source hardware platform. It uses infrared (thermopile) sensors for stabilization and GPS for navigation. It requires a GPS module and an infrared XY sensor (not included). The autopilot handles both stabilization and navigation, eliminating the need for a separate stabilization system. It also supports a “fly-by-wire” mode that can stabilize an aircraft when flying manually under RC control, making it easier and safer to fly.
The hardware and software are all open source. The board comes with all the surface-mount parts already soldered, but requires the user to solder on connectors. Firmware is already loaded, but the autopilot software must be downloaded and loaded onto the board by the user.
More: Product/project information. Price: $24.95
Tired of all those LCD TVs everywhere? Want a break from advertisements while you’re trying to eat? Want to zap screens from across the street? The TV-B-Gone kit is what you need! Hack it! NEW! v1.2 now works world-wide!
Wave Bubble is a self-tuning, wide-bandwidth portable RF jammer. The device is lightweight and small for easy camouflaging: it is the size of a pack of cigarettes. An internal lithium-ion battery provides up to 2 hours of jamming (two bands, such as cell) or four hours (single band, such as cordless phone, GPS, WiFi, bluetooth, etc). The battery is rechargeable via a mini-USB connector or 4mm DC jack (a common size). Alternately, three AAA batteries may also be used. Output power is .1W (high bands) and .3W (low bands). Effective range is approximately 20′ radius with well-tuned antennas. Less so with the internal antennas or poorly matched antennas.
More: Product/project information. Price: DIY $200+
New this year! MeeBlip is a hackable, affordable digital synthesizer, made for accessible sound and hands-on control. It can be someone’s first synth. It can be a unique-sounding addition to your music setup, playable with MIDI hardware and software. It can be a synth you open up and modify, learning about sound creation, code, and electronics. Or it can be the basis of new projects and ideas.
More: Product/project information. Price: $129
The Milkymist One is an open hardware product that concentrates all the processing power and the interfaces of an heavily interactive VJ setup into one small box. With a unique combination of built-in interfaces such as MIDI, DMX512, analogue video input, Ethernet, OpenSoundControl and generic digital I/O, it gives you all the tools to create truly interactive performances.
More: Product/project information. Price: No price or availability date have been defined yet for the final Milkymist One
Where’s the party at 8-bit sampler
WTPA is a very full featured 8-bit sampler kit. WTPA, as a kit, is designed to the following aesthetic ends: to be a good and clear example of fairly “traditional” analog (low noise, relatively low frequency, high headroom, good routing, sensible ADCs and DACs etc) and digital (clean low level code, parallel memory architecture, I/O expansion via latches, various serial communication protocols) circuit design, and caters to the determined (though not necessarily experienced) kit-builder who really, truly wants to learn more about how electronics work and how to get better at their craft.
More: Product/project information. Price: DIY $200+
The Bulbdial Clock kit works like an indoor sundial, but with three shadows of different length. You tell the time just like you do on a normal clock, by reading the positions of the hour, minute, and second hands. This clock kit comes complete with three custom circuit boards, 72 ultrabright LEDs, pre-programmed ATmega168 microcontroller with Arduino bootloader, tactile button switches, aluminum standoffs, 20 ppm quartz crystal, custom clock face, gnomon spike, universal-input plug-in power supply, stainless mounting hardware, plus the resistors, capacitors and other little parts needed to build the Bulbdial clock.
Ice Tube Clock
Somewhere at the junction of modern open source hardware and early 80s Russia lives a beautiful new DIY kit called the Ice Tube Clock. The centerpiece of this old-meets-new clock is a Russian-made, 9-digit, vacuum florescent display (VFD). These types of displays were typically used in electronics form from the late 60s through the mid 1980s. Remember those bright green VCR and boom-box displays? Yep, those were most likely a type of VFD.
Included in the kit is everything you need to build a complete VFD clock. The power source, case, VFD tube, and all the electrical components are ready to be soldered together right out of the box. They even include the coin-cell battery for the battery backup system. The kit features an alarm, with a snooze function, and adjustable brightness, which makes it perfect for your nightstand.
eZ430-Chronos, the world’s first customizable development environment within a sports watch. Taking the popular line of eZ430â„¢ development tools to the next level, the kit allows developers to easily harness the leading integration, ultra-low power and wireless capabilities of TI’s CC430 microcontroller (MCU). According to some not-public announcments (yet) TI is publishing the CAD files, source, everything and allowing commercial use. We’re keeping this on this for now and talking to them, rules are bent a little, hope this works out.
More: Product/project information. Price: $49.00
Free Charge Controller
The goal of this project is to design a charge controller with maximum power point tracking (MPPT). Maximum power point tracking allows a solar panel, wind turbine, etc to achieve maximum efficiency and deliver maximum power to a load. In this case, a load can be a battery, inverter, or the grid.
More: Product/project information. Price: DIY $30+
Build your own MintyBoost: a small and simple (but very powerful) USB charger for your iPod or other MP3 player, your camera, cellphone, and any other gadget you can plug into a USB port to charge.
The æœ¬ version of NanoNote is an ultra small form factor computing device. The device sports a 336MHz processor, 2GB of flash memory, microSD slot, head phone jack, USB device, and 850mAh Li-ion battery. It boots Linux out of the box and also boots over USB. It’s targeted squarely at developers who see the promise of open hardware and want to roll their own end user experience. It’s the perfect companion for open content; we envision developers turning the device into a music or video player for Ogg or an offline Wikipedia or MIT OpenCourseWare appliance. Or you can simply amaze your friends by creating an ultra small handheld notebook computer. You choose the distribution. The æœ¬ Nanonote is the first in a line of products that will see the addition of other hardware capabilities.
More: Product/project information. Price: $99.00
OpenLog is an open source data logger. Simple to use, simple to change. We wanted to create a serial logger that just worked. Power up this device and it will start logging any received serial data at 9600bps. Sending Ctrl+z three times will drop out of logging and in to command mode. “new’” will create a new file, “md” makes a directory. “?” brings up the list of commands. OpenLog doesn’t do a lot, but it does log serial streams extremely well.
More: Product/project information. Price: $24.95
The “Bus Pirate” is a universal bus interface that talks to most chips from a PC serial terminal, eliminating a ton of early prototyping effort when working with new or unknown chips. Many serial protocols are supported at 0.6-5.5volts, more can be added.
More: Product/project information. Price: $27.15
The JeeNode is a small wireless board with an 8-bit Atmel RISC microprocessor. JeeNodes are compatible with the Arduino platform and can be programmed under Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux using sketches created with the Arduino IDE. Each JeeNode has 4 identical “ports” for attaching analog and digital I/O logic, I2C devices, and more.
More: Product/project information. Price: $20+
Mar’s open wireless mesh networking, inexpensive stand-alone dev kit. Easy JTAG debugging. No extra programming hardware needed. Open Hardware released under CC-BY-SA.
More: Product/project information. Price: $55
Freakduino-Chibi, An Arduino-based Board For Wireless Sensor Networking
The FreakLabs FREAKDUINO-CHIBI is designed for rapid prototyping, experimentation, and deployment of wireless designs at low cost. It combines the ease-of-use of the Arduino IDE, compatibility with a rich assortment of third-party peripherals, and an integrated wireless radio for an inexpensive wireless prototyping system.
More: Product/project information. Price: $28.00
Remember these are my favorites, post your favorite Open Source Hardware products/projects you plan to give (or want to get) in the comments!