Getting back to the physical world: Open Hardware Summit Rome 2014

The Open Hardware Summit is the annual conference organized by the Open Source Hardware Association. The 5th edition of this international event was held in Rome, Italy on 30 sep – 1 oct, as part of The Innovation Week, which also featured other events as  Maker Faire: The European Edition, MEET IOT and Smart Money.

First day was fully focused on talks,  there we listened to fascinating speeches from a range of open source hardware experts. Following below, some of our highlights.

Second day was the community day, organized in small workshops to connect face-to-face and learn from key protagonists of the OSH movement.

“I’m a believer”

David Cuartielles, one of the creators of the platform Arduino, opened the summit with an encouraging speech. Being able to believe from his childhood and through his adolescence,  what Cuartielles believes now in his maturity is in open source, and particularly in open source hardware. A place where he finds there is still room to contribute to a greater good. So, he stated, don’t worry so much about open source being useful, but make it useful, go create stuff, and make things open.

David Cuartielles
David Cuartielles on OHSummit stage

Day-to-day robots

From design collective MADLAB.CC, researchers Madeline Gannon and Zach Jacobson-Weaver (also from EnArtDezArk) presented Robo.Op, an open, modular platform for hacking industrial robots.  This hardware & software toolkit prototype works as an universal shield adaptor to communicate with robots by using different software interfaces and devices. Their search goal is to approach robotics to a broader public, overcoming the current limitations in the area (prohibitively expensive, proprietary interfaces, private knowledge) with their proposal of modular hardware, user-friendly software and knowledge hub.

MADLAB.CC is also a collective that explores the edges of digital creativity by merging disciplinary knowledge from architecture, robotics, human-computer interaction and design. We had the opportunity to speak with Madeline and Zach about all these issues. The interview will be posted soon.

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“We are heading towards matter becoming software”: Interview with Vik Olliver

“Wealth without money” is one of the mottos in RepRap community. Conscious of the deep revolution that the creation of a self-replicating machine implies, they go beyond the technical issues and promote a new social philosophy based on openness, sharing and creativity. RepRap (abbreviation of replicating rapid prototyper) was born as a project with the clear goal of creating a 3D printer able to print its own components. Founded in 2005 by Adrian Bowyer, it was in September 2006 when a RepRap printed one of its components by the first time, by Vik Olliver. Next, Olliver built the first RepRap “child” –that is, the first completed self-replicated 3D printer in history.

Adrian Bowyer (right) and Vik Olliver (left) with the first self-replicated 3D printer
Adrian Bowyer (left) and Vik Olliver (right) with the first self-replicated 3D printer (First replication – CC BY-SA 3.0)

It was a huge step towards the Third Industrial Revolution. From then, RepRap community increased unstoppably, with around 15,000 registered users now. However, it is not possible to trace all existing RepRaps today, as they can develop by themselves… So when we had the chance of talking with Vik Olliver, we knew that we were talking with the “father” of a long-range movement. The funny thing of it is that he knows, too.

P.N. Even if you are one of the leaders of the RepRap movement, you always emphasize the great importance of community, and specially on the essential role of open source ideology. Do you consider open source a solid business project?

V.O.  Of course. Open source works because if you have two companies working on a project for you, it will be easier for everybody if they do it on an open source basis. It means that you can get more than one company to work on a project and share the benefits and share the experience, and there’s no worry that lawyers will descend upon anyone after the project is finished.

P.N. But on the other side copyright laws are being strengthened… Continue reading ““We are heading towards matter becoming software”: Interview with Vik Olliver”

The Curve: From Freeloaders into Superfans – Nicholas Lovell

By choice or by force, many business are quickly turning into free. Default price in many services tends to be zero, and this situation which at first affected music, books and other items, easily reproducible by digital means, now starts to have an effect on physical items too: this was one of the impacts of the transformation of atoms into bits, and this will be one of the consequences of the transformation of bits into atoms. The free circulation of files on-line and the spread of digital fabrication join to create a new background where obtaining a particular object won’t be necessarily related to its purchase, as it could be made for free.

In his book <<The Curve: From Freeloaders into Superfans>>, Nicholas Lovell analyzes in detail this new business context where free products are taken for granted, and proposes solutions for those who are searching for a way to gain their earnings in the current situation. In Lovell’s book, you can find a very interesting and up-rising thesis: you can earn benefits from a free-of-charge business model, the key is just to understand what can you give without cost, who your customers are, and what are they willing to pay for.

The Curve Infography
The Curve Infography (thecurveonline.com)

Of course, this needs further explanation.

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Interview with Massimo Banzi: cofounder of Arduino

The year 2005 was full of big shocks: Hurricane Katrina, Indonesia big blackout, Avian Flu… and amongst all this, it was born a big invention, one with potential enough to solve many shocks in the future: Arduino. It was born in Ivrea, Italy, originally as a tool for students who needed cheaper hardware for their electronic projects. But there it was the seed of the next revolution: Open Hardware. The spread of Arduino has been immensely broad, enabling people throughout the world to develop a vast number of inventions which wouldn’t have the chance of existing without this “magic board”. In 2005, it was not hard to imagine free software, but to envision open hardware you needed to be really a visionary.

And the visionary was Massimo Banzi, cofounder of the Arduino project, who conceived an open-source platform to make electronics universally available and, most of all, to create a community strongly engaged with this vision. As an icon of open- source and Maker movements, we felt privileged to have the chance of talking with him during Fab 10 Barcelona and asking him for some ins and outs of Arduino wave.

P.N. When you started with Arduino, did you imagine it would grow as much as it has grown ?

M.B. No, no, no. It started off as a tool for my students, to teach my students. They are Design students, so they are very clever, very intelligent. They design the products that we use everyday, products based in technology, in electronics. I needed something that it would allow them to learn about electronics very quickly, so they could actually make, you know, imagine the products of the future. We made it for them. And then, obviously, afterwards it became useful for other people, artists, musicians, and makers in general, and then kids. So there were a lot of different groups of people that found the system that we started, it was useful enough and worked.

Massimo Banzi at Fab 10 Barcelona
Massimo Banzi at Fab 10 Barcelona

P.N. So you gave the tool and people put the ideas, was it something like that?

M.B. Yeah. The tool was designed for a specific group of people, and then it turned out to be useful for many people. I think this is important, when you design something for a group of people, don’t try to invent something for everybody, because if you try to create something for everybody, actually nobody likes it. When you try to design something for a specific group of people. Then other groups of people could say OK, this is interesting and useful…

P.N. We can not please everybody.

M.B. No, no. I think you should design things for specific types of person, and then if it gets more universal, that’s great.

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Interview with Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms

In despite of his guru’s aura as founder of the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT and creator of the Fab Lab model, Neil Gershenfeld proved at Fab 10 in Barcelona that he enjoys being on everyday’s work and making things turn real. During the meeting you could see him everywhere: on stage introducing the speakers, with young volunteers guiding their work, solving technical issues with sound system people, struggling with computers to connect call conferences on time…

If by chance somebody there didn’t knew who he was, by his humble and zealous attitude perhaps they wouldn’t suspect that Neil Gershenfeld is the cornerstone of Fab Lab movement. With essential books as <<When things start to think>> or <<Fab, The Coming Revolution on your Desktop>>, and his magnificent work on the Center for Bits an Atoms, he builded a completely new model of understanding how to make things. In fact, it can be said that he has triggered a whole new way of understanding productive economy, with crucial consequences that we will see in the years to come.

Some days ago, President Obama hosted the first White House Maker Faire and there he discussed with Neil Gershenfeld about the digital fabrication implications now and in the future. In the midst of frantic Fab City Symposium, Gershenfeld was so kind of granting us some time to ask him some questions about his activity and thoughts. We were really keen to have the chance of talking with him and hearing his thoughts about the influence that Fab Lab movement is gaining day by day.

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Fab 10 Barcelona – Symposium

The Fab City Symposium took place on Monday 7th July, as part of the Fab 10 Barcelona Conference. Throughout this one-day event, noted speakers shared their experiences and insights on a range of issues related to digital fabrication, focusing on the role that technology, policy and society have to achieve self-sufficient and productive cities. Circular economy was also an important issue that some speakers addressed. The event was kicked off by Antoni Vives, Deputy Major of Barcelona, and Tomas Diez, head of Fab Lab Barcelona.

We were eagerly looking forward to hearing Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, and main leader of the Fab Lab movement. Of course, we weren’t disappointed: with his clear and condensed style, he explained the essential features of Fab Labs, their impact on society and economy now and in the future, and the roadmap of Fab Lab movement for the next years. Very aware of the transforming potential of these laboratories of fabrication, he emphasized their role as a tool to change the way we understand our relation with the day-to-day life and the objects around us. From democratization of fabrication tools to machines making machines, from programming of functional materials to the emergence of the personal fabricator, his speech guided us step by step by the road Fab Labs and Digital Fabrication will go through.

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Fab 10 Barcelona – Sunday, 6th July

Sunday opened with the “3D Printing” panel talk featuring Vik Olliver and Roger Uceda from RepRap, Joan Ravantós from Stalactite 3D, Harma Woldhuis from Ultimaker, Sénamé Koffi from Woelab, and William Hoyle (moderator) from Ethical Filament Foundation.

RepRap guys explained the origin and evolution of their project, as well as the revolutionary concept lying behind it; a free 3D desktop printer that can print replicas of itself.  Showing a firm support to openness (“evolution needs open source” they said), and highlighting the importance of the community for the success of an open source project, their talk was one of the strongest points of the day. They also commented on RepRapBcn, a Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) project aimed to spread the use of RepRap technology in Europe. We spoke to Vik Olliver, core member of RepRap project. We will publish his interview soon.

Joan Ravantós from Barcelona-based start-up Stalactite 3D introduced us their 3D printer Stalactite 102, a high definition desktop resin printer with innovative technology and design looking pretty impressive. They just concluded a successful fundraising campaign on Indiegogo. Meanwhile, Harma Woldhuis from Dutch 3D printers fabricant Ultimaker told us the story of the company. Former participants of RepRap project, their founders launched this company in 2011, having had to go through a hard road to positionate it as one of the most successful open source companies within the Maker industry.

Finally, Sénamé Koffi from Woelab, a community of African makers and technology incubator center located in the small African nation of Togo, presented Wafate, the first 3D printer made of recycled electronic waste. By using these components, Woelab gives a solution to the problem of waste disposal while making 3D printing technology more affordable. This inspiring project deserved the first prize of Global Fab Awards this year.

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