Yes – the title is correct. I meant to say hardware, not software. I read a really great article on TechLearning about a new 3-D printer with educational potential. One of the features of this printer, called a fabber, is that is is built in a clear case as an open source tool. According to the article, this “means you have access to their design specifications and can modify them and develop your own improvements.”
You can read the article here: 3-D Printing a Goo Goo
The printer itself is fascinating – priced and sized to be used in homes and schools, it also uses a wide range of substances from clay to goo to chocolate to cheese to create 3-D objects. So it is also safe.
In the article, Hod Lipson (one of the gurus behind fabber) pointed out the reasoning behind making this printer open-source. He speaks of how we are becoming detached from technology, possibly to the point of not understanding it. All because we can’t crack open the case and mess with a tool without messing it up.
Could we ever hope to see this approach take root and grow in other technology markets? Sure, there are other open-source tools out there, but they are pretty few and far between. Just like open-source software, open-source hardware will not be for everyone. But for those that could benefit from it (see article above for examples), we need to see more products like the fabber.