Open Source Hardware: AKER – Simple garden kits

AKER – Simple garden kits that snap together without tools in just minutes.

In out Age of Makers there is a burgeoning “Open Source Hardware” movement, publishing digital plans and executable files for everyday goods, including furniture and even farm machinery.

This sociotechnical development exploits the “downloadability” of digital fabrication files and the availability of local maker spaces, creating variations on “digital libraries” or peer-to-peer services. The services are being wrapped in plausible business plans for sustainability, directly selling kits instead of plans, and creating networks of local shops who will build and install for you.

AKER, (“Simple garden kits that snap together without tools in just minutes.”) is another such Open Source Hardware project.

Focussed on urban gardening, the product line includes compact soil boxes, a chicken cage, and a beehive. All are cut from plywood and snap together. Simple, cheap, and effective.

The GroWall is a wall-mounted planter system. From AKER.

These designs are available for free from github to make it yourself with a CNC router which many maker spaces have available to the public.

AKER is a global network of designers who distribute their works through this channel. AKER hosts on line “reviews” of designs that are in development, enabling feedback and collaboration, There is also an AKER Distribution Network which delivers cutout kits directly to you from local or at least regional makers.

This is becoming an important “design pattern” for low cost furniture and similar manufactured items: digital designs suitable to be built in a maker space are published as “open source hardware”. There is opportunity for designers to get their (probably not commercially viable) designs distributed, and there is an opportunity for makers to create a local business delivering and installing these products.

Obviously, this is not a path to massive riches, but it does seem like it may be sustainable, and create jobs everywhere.

AKER is also directly aimed at “greening” cities, enabling local food production in urban settings. This distribution model also is relatively “green”: designers “ship” the design to you or to a local shop. The main input will be plywood, along with modest amounts of fuel and power to run the router and move the raw and cut pieces. This is pretty minimal, especially compared to long distance shipping from a large factory.

While Open Source Hardware is becoming a reasonably green way for designers to manufacture and distribute their ideas, it is also important as an open repository of know how. AKER does a pretty good job of this, providing not only the digital files but also instructions and other know how. In coming years, we shall need to work hard to sustain and, when necessary, archive, these Open Source Hardware projects.

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