More Open Source Hardware

Inspired by the success of open source software and fueled by the proliferation of low cost digital fabrications, open source hardware is sprouting, with projects for gardening, furniture, and so on.

Two new examples came to my attention recently.

First, Precious Plastic (and excessively precious name, but there it is) has put out open source designs for “machines that enable anyone to recycle plastic.” The suite includes Injection, Pressing, Extrusion, and Shredding. The latter two can provide a way to recycle plastic into feedstock for 3D printers—a badly, badly needed capability for maker spaces everywhere.

Unlike a lot of open source projects, this is something I have wanted for a long time, and I know exactly what it is needed for! I’m sure local makers will be booting these up, toot-sweet!

 

A second OSH project is OpenKnit, an open source knitting machine.  One of several such machines designed to be built in any maker space, it is programmed through a software interface ( have not figured out the software part myself).

The OpenKnit project looked pretty dormant until it was reborn this month as a commercial product Kniterate (Rubio just likes cutesy names, no?). The hardware has been demoed, and the website indicates that a kickstarter will happen Real Soon Now.   The free software is now encapsulated in a web interface (ick), which is not too bad, though very limited. It seems to be a pretty closed system, requiring me to have a facebook login to really use it. Tsk.

This is a nice bit of work, and I wish them the best, though I wish the open source project were more successful.

I do have some philosophical quibbles. First of all, calling this “3D printing” is not really appropriate. I realize that they are doing this for marketing purposes, making sure that people grok that this is in the same class as personal 3D printers, and has the same “draw it, push button, fabricator does the rest” procedure.

But this isn’t “printing” nor is it exactly an additive fabrication process.

A more important issue is whether this damages the pleasure of hand knitting as a craft. Their promise of making your own, custom, one-off knit wear tromps into territory that used to be mom’s.

If you use this machine to make your knitwear, are you getting the visceral pleasure from knitting (no), from handling the materials (some), from counting out the design (no), and from giving someone a gift that is truly hand-made and took time (no). In other words, this may replicate the product, but it no way replicates the hobby/craft of knitting.

I don’t think this machine will stop people from knitting for their own pleasure, nor will we stop receiving hand made gifts. It might distract beginners from learning the craft, though I suspect people will be motivated to learn the hand process for its own sake.

What I really do not look forward to is how this will muddy the waters about what “hand made” means, especially in advertising. We are going to see people selling “handicrafts” that are basically just run off from digital templates. And I suspect that old fashioned “knitting” will now be retro termed “analog knitting”. Sigh.

3 thoughts on “More Open Source Hardware”

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