Bildr: componentized, crowdsourced DIY how-tos

Education Technology

What Bildr is attempting to do is very admirable. It makes good sense. It will be glorious, if it happens. Something similar has been talked about in tech DIY circles for years. The idea is to create a visual Web-based library of componentized instruction sets, “building blocks,” for doing various hardware and software constructions. Put a bunch of these components together, and you have all of the instructions you need to execute a multi-part project. It’s extraordinarily ambitious, but when you look at other crowdsourced creations, such as Instructables and Wikipedia, it just seems so doable. But to make it happen, it’ll need LOTS of love, care, sweat-equity, money, and people power. Let’s hope it happens, ’cause… how cool would such a resource be?

4 thoughts on “Bildr: componentized, crowdsourced DIY how-tos

  1. Bryan Bishop says:

    This sounds a lot like skdb.

    SKDB is a method for sharing hardware over the internet. By “hardware” we mean not just designs for circuit boards, but also biological constructs, scientific instruments, machine tools, nuts and bolts, raw materials, and how to make them.

    You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you begin a new project. Someone out there has probably already done most or all of the work for whatever you are trying to do, and then released the plans on the internet. There are many common tools and parts involved in making things. If only we could just “get” everything automatically from the web, DIY manufacturing would be much easier. Essentially we want to do something like “apt-get” for Debian or “emerge” for Gentoo, the Linux software package managers. SKDB simplifies the process of searching for free designs, comparing part compatibility, and building lists of materials and components and where to get them. You could even say SKDB is “apt-get but for real stuff”.

    In SKDB, hardware is organized into packages. Packages are a standard and consistent way for programs to find data. Packages may contain CAD files, CAM parameters, computer-readable descriptions of product specifications, product-specific code, and bill of materials. For each part in a package there are a number of interface definitions, which describe how the part can connect with other parts, even parts from other packages. Each package also lists dependencies which have to be bought or built in order to successfully carry out a project. For example a drill press is required to make holes with a certain level of accuracy. SKDB downloads all of the dependencies automatically and compares them to your existing inventory, and generates instructions for your CNC machinery if you have any.

    With OpenCASCADE, an open source CAD geometry kernel, parts can be visualized and combined in real-time to show new assemblies and constructions. The next steps are automatically generating instructions for assembling these parts and projects, with human-readable as well as robot-readable instructions (i.e., g-code). Also in the pipeline is a wiki-like frontend to SKDB with a git revision control back-end, which could be used as a free alternative to instructables or thingiverse, but better. With proper distributed revision control tools, anyone can publish and share their modifications with the rest of the world, and seamlessly merge those changes back into the main line. These tools are vital to the success of do-it-yourself collaborative and free manufacturing. Without a solid base for sharing and building upon each other’s work, the movement will continue to flounder.

    – Bryan

    1. imas says:

      Yes, but what you don’t discuss or mention here is user interface. SKDB might be similar in concept, but bildr seems to have a design sensibility that has the potential to appeal not only to code experts, but also to new comers or young comers alike. If you look at applications and websites like twitter, hulu, facebook- they all have the user in mind for the design and layout of their website. This plus great back ends = success. I think Bildr did an amazing job and hope that people fill it with LOTS of content, because that would be amazing.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn
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