Makers and open hardware for innovation

Just like the garage computer explosion of the 70’s through the 80’s, which brought us such things as Apple, pong, Bill Gate’s hair, and the proliferation of personal computers, the maker movement is the new garage hardware explosion. Today, 135 million adults in the United States alone are involved in the maker movement.

Enthusiasts who want to build the products they want, from shortwave radios to personal computers, and to tweak products they’ve bought to make them even better, have long been a part of the electronics industry. By all measures, garage-style innovation remains alive and well today, as “makers” as they are called continue to turn out contemporary gadgets, including 3D printers, drones, and embedded electronics devices.

Making is about individual Do-It-Yourselfers being able to design and create with tools that were, as of a decade or two ago, only available to large, cash-rich corporations: CAD tools, CNC mills, 3D printers, low-quantity PCB manufacturing, open hardware such as Arduinos and similar inexpensive development boards – all items that have made it easier and relatively cheap to make whatever we imagine. For individuals, maker tools can change how someone views their home or their hobbies. The world is ours to make. Humans are genetically wired to be makers. The maker movement is simply the result of making powerful building and communication tools accessible to the masses. There are plenty of projects from makers that show good engineering: Take this Arduino board with tremendous potential, developed by a young maker, as example.

The maker movement is a catalyst to democratize entrepreneurship as these do-it-yourself electronics are proving to be hot sellers: In the past year, unit sales for 3D printing related products; Arduino units, parts and supplies; Raspberry Pi boards; drones and quadcopters; and robotics goods are all on a growth curve in terms of eBay sales. There are many Kickstarter maker projects going on. The Pebble E-Paper Watch raises $10 million. The LIFX smartphone-controlled LED bulb raises $1.3 million. What do these products have in common? They both secured funding through Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website that is changing the game for entrepreneurs. Both products were created by makers who seek to commercialize their inventions. These “startup makers” iterate on prototypes with high-end tools at professional makerspaces.

For companies to remain competitive, they need to embrace the maker movement or leave themselves open for disruption. Researchers found that 96 percent of business leaders believe new technologies have forever changed the rules of business by democratizing information and rewiring customer expectations. - You’ve got to figure out agile innovation. Maybe history is repeating itself as the types of products being sold reminded us of the computer tinkering that used to be happening in the 1970s to 1990ssimilar in terms of demographics, tending to be young people, and low budget. Now the do-it-yourself category is deeply intertwined with the electronics industry. Open hardware is in the center in maker movement – we need open hardware designs! How can you publish your designs and still do business with it? Open source ecosystem markets behave differently and therefore require a very different playbook than traditional tech company: the differentiation is not in the technology you build; it is in the process and expertise that you slowly amass over an extended period of time.

By democratizing the product development process, helping these developments get to market, and transforming the way we educate the next generation of innovators, we will usher in the next industrial revolution. The world is ours to make. Earlier the PC created a new generation of software developers who could innovate in the digital world without the limitations of the physical world (virtually no marginal cost, software has become the great equalizer for innovation. Now advances in 3D printing and low-cost microcontrollers as well as the ubiquity of advanced sensors are enabling makers to bridge software with the physical world. Furthermore, the proliferation of wireless connectivity and cloud computing is helping makers contribute to the Internet of Things (IoT). We’re even beginning to see maker designs and devices entering those markets once thought to be off-limits, like medical.

Historically, the education system has produced graduates that went on to work for companies where new products were invented, then pushed to consumers. Today, consumers are driving the innovation process and demanding education, business and invention to meet their requests. Makers are at the center of this innovation transformation.

Image source: The world is ours to make: The impact of the maker movement – EDN Magazine

In fact, many parents have engaged in the maker movement with their kids because they know that the education system is not adequately preparing their children for the 21st century. There is a strong movement to spread this DIY idea widely. The Maker Faire, which launched in the Bay Area in California in 2006, underlined the popularity of the movement by drawing a record 215,000 people combined in the Bay Area and New York events in 2014. There’s Maker Media, MakerCon, MakerShed, Make: magazine and 131 Maker Faire events that take place throughout the world. Now the founders of all these Makers want a way to connect what they refer to as the “maker movement” online. So Maker Media created a social network called MakerSpace, a Facebook-like social network that connects participants of Maker Faire in one online community. The new site will allow participants of the event to display their work online. There are many other similar sites that allow yout to present yout work fron Hackaday to your own blog. Today, 135 million adults in the United States alone are involved in the maker movement—although makers can be found everywhere in the world.



  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Motion Capture system that you can build yourself

    An open hardware-software framework based on inertial sensors that anyone can use to build a human motion capture system.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Open Hardware Takes Charge in Papua New Guinea

    [Brian], he designed an intermediary device that takes any input and converts it to clean 5 volts with a low-cost, reliable buck converter. The inputs are a pair of alligator clips, so they can be connected to car battery terminals, bare-wire solar panel leads, or 9V connectors.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Open Source Fader Bank Modulates our Hearts

    Here at Hackaday, we love knobs and buttons. So what could be better than one button? How about 16! No deep philosophy about the true nature of Making here; [infovore], [tehn], and [shellfritsch] put together a very slick, very adaptable bank of 16 analog faders for controlling music synthesis.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Adventures In Power Outage Hacking

    The best type of power outage is no power outage, but they will inevitably happen. When they do, a hacker with a house full of stuff and a head full of ideas is often the person of the hour. Or the day, or perhaps the week, should the outage last long past the fun little adventure phase and become a nuisance or even an outright emergency.

    [FFcossag] documented his attempts to survive the eight-day outage in vlog form, and although each entry is fairly long, there’s a lot to be learned from his ordeal.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Cloning Vintage Knobs

    Using black casting resin, I replicated a vintage knob to replace a missing one for a recent gadget purchase. And while I was at it, I made a mold of some other antique knobs for future projects.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Ben Krasnow at Supercon: Making Alien Technology in Your Own Shop

    Ben Krasnow has a vision of future electronics: instead of the present PCB-screwed-into-a-plastic-box construction, flexible circuits will be deposited straight onto the plastic body of the device itself, merging the physical object and its electronics. There is existing copper-on-plastic technology, but Ben’s got something novel that he presents in this talk that you could implement yourself.

    Ben’s research here is truly cutting-edge. It’s prototype-able by the home gamer, but not yet production-ready for industry. Sure, there is an industrial technique for doing circuits on plastic right now.

    Ben’s goal is to “replace the expensive parts with cheap parts”. Instead of injection molding, he wants to be able to paint the catalyst onto a 3D-printed part, and he wants to be able to draw the circuits with a sub-$100 CO2 laser. There’s a lot of great experimentation behind the results presented here, but the end result is workflow that looks like this: coat the plastic with a PTFE bike-chain lubricant to keep the catalyst from adhering. Laser the lubricant off in places where you’d like copper traces, dip the part in a wetting agent to make the catalyst stick better where the laser has gone, and then dip in catalyst and in an electroless copper plating bath. Bam!

    This process is novel, affordable, and it uses some of the tools we already have access to.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A Lemon Battery Via 3D Printing

    There are a whole bunch of high school science experiments out there that are useful for teaching students the basics of biology, physics, and chemistry. One of the classics is the lemon battery. [iqless] decided to have a play with the idea, and whipped up a little something for his students.

    The basic lemon battery is remarkably simple. Lemon juice provides the electrolyte, while copper and and zinc act as electrodes. This battery won’t have a hope of charging your Tesla, but you might get enough juice to light an LED or small bulb (pun intended).

    Manipulative Monday: Lemon Battery

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    This Vintage Phone Goes Cellular

    Way back in the good old days, life ran at a slower pace. It took us almost a decade to get to the moon, and dialling the phone was a lazy affair which required the user to wait for the rotary mechanism to rewind after selecting each digit. Eager to bring a taste of retro telephony into the modern era, [Marek] retrofitted this vintage Polish telephone with a GSM upgrade.

    Retro GSM

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Wire Spool Holder With Straightener

    A 3D-printed holder for a spool of wire, with an integrated mechanism to straighten wires as they are pulled off the spool

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A Very Different ‘Hot Or Not’ Application For Your Phone

    Radioactivity stirs up a lot of anxiety, partially because ionizing radiation is undetectable by any of the senses we were born with. Anytime radiation makes the news, there is a surge of people worried about their exposure levels and a lack of quick and accurate answers. Doctors are flooded with calls, detection devices become scarce, and fraudsters swoop in to make a quick buck. Recognizing the need for a better way, researchers are devising methods to measure cumulative exposure experienced by commodity surface mount resistors.

    Cumulative exposure is typically tracked by wearing a dosimeter a.k.a. “radiation badge”.

    many people today do wear personal electronics full of components made with high purity ingredients to tightly controlled tolerances. The resistor is the simplest and most common part, and we can hack a dosimeter with them.

    Lab experiments established that SMD resistors will reveal their history of radiation exposure under high heat. Not to the accuracy of established dosimetry techniques, but more than good enough to differentiate people who need immediate medical attention from those who need to be monitored and, hopefully, reassure people in neither of those categories.

    Retrospective dosimetry at the natural background level with commercial surface mount resistors

    • Surface mount resistors were found to have sufficient TL sensitivity to enable measurement at the natural background level.
    • Detection limits below 10 mGy with relative uncertainty at higher (1Gy) doses in the range of 3% were observed.
    • Throughput estimates as low as 1 h were obtained.
    • Applications for emergency response dosimetry or nuclear forensics are considered.
    • Results are shown to be sufficient to address radiophobia considerations subsequent to a nuclear event.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Open Source LIDAR Lets You Get Down To The Nitty Gritty

    If you’re unfamiliar with LIDAR, you might have noticed it sounds a bit like radar. That’s no accident – LIDAR is a backronym standing for “light detection and ranging”, the word having initially been created as a combination of “light” and “radar”. The average person is most likely to have come into contact with LIDAR at the business end of a police speed trap, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Unruly is the open source LIDAR project you’ve been waiting for all along.

    When I see the words “The laser power, pulse width and eye safety ratings are all under software control and can be set to Class 1, Class 1M or Class 3R to suit the application” along with the words “Make it hack worthy” I see many blind people in this projects future.

    We would never be able to get away with 3R purely under software control even if it were done to SIL-4 / Level A safety standards.

    Open Source LiDAR – Unruly

    We’ve been waiting a long time for someone to post the plans of a working LiDAR. Is it really going to happen?

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    What is worth desoldering from old electronics? || DIY Fume Extractor

    In this video I will show you how to build a dirt cheap fume extractor and how you can fastly and easily desolder all kinds of components from old electronics circuits. I will also talk about what I think is even worth desoldering and which parts you should avoid

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Hack everything: re-purposing everyday devices – Matt Evans

    Arduino is everywhere, but so is electronic junk. Got a project in mind? Take something you already have and repurpose it instead. Make it into something more interesting, for free! Learn how it works, see what it’s really capable of and save it from landfill.

    In this talk, we’ll journey through some examples of common electronic devices to find out:
    - Why things are hackable, which useful interfaces they may have and how to use them.

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Eight Years of Partmaking: A Love Story for Parts

    Over my many years of many side-projects, getting mechanical parts has always been a creative misadventure. Sure, I’d shop for them. But I’d also turn them up from dumpsters, turn them down from aluminum, cut them with lasers, or ooze them out of plastic. My adventures making parts first took root when I jumped into college. Back-in-the-day, I wanted to learn how to build robots. I quickly learned that “robot building” meant learning how to make their constituent parts.

    Today I want to take you on a personal journey in my own mechanical “partmaking.” It’s a story told in schools, machine shops, and garages of a young adulthood spent making parts. It’s a story of learning how to run by crawling through e-waste dumps.

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Blackest Black, Now in Handy Pocket Size

    Created by [Simon], a designer in the UK, this small carbon nanotube array is described as “A simulated black hole” because the surface absorbs 99.9% of the visible light that hits it.

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Arcus-3D-P1 – Pick and Place for 3D printers

    Open source, mostly 3D printable, lightweight pick and place head for a standard groove mount

  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Open HD

    A high torque, high precision, Strain Wave Gear (harmonic drive) based 3D printable closed loop servo actuator for use in robotic arms

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Productivity, Unfinished Projects, and Letting Go

    Most of us have been there, some projects just don’t get finished. Everyone shelves an in-progress build from time to time, and some hackers drop almost every project for fully finishing it. Why does it happen? What can we do about it? Or does it even matter? My own most memorable one is the wine glass rack I was making for my sister’s birthday, still sitting incomplete on a shelf eleven years later.

    The answer may lie in what you consider to be a “done” project. Is it a fully completed build with every possible feature implemented and polished? With that rubric you could be counting all of your completed projects on one hand. What are you really getting out of your personal projects? It’s an interesting topic to consider as pivoting your mindset can end up boosting your productivity. So let’s dig in!

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Amplifier Controlled Motorized Display

    To address this only occasional desire to have a display on your media setup, you could follow in the footsteps of [Steven Elliott] and create a DIY motorized display which only pops up when needed. Inspired by seeing videos of TVs rising out of cabinets and other such trickery, he decided to create his own version using an old computer monitor he had lying around.

  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Perfecting the Solar Powered Web Server

    Running a server completely off solar power seems like it would be a relatively easy thing to do: throw up a couple of panels, tack on a charge controller and a beefy battery, and away you go. But the reality is somewhat different. Most of us hackers are operating on a relatively limited budget and probably don’t have access to the kind of property you need to put out big panels; both pretty crippling limitations. Doing solar on a small-scale is hard, and unless you really plan ahead your setup will probably be knocked out on its first cloudy day.

    How to Build a Low-tech Website?

    Our new blog is designed to radically reduce the energy use associated with accessing our content.


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