Monthly Archives: January 2013

The State of Free Hardware for Robotics

SERB Robot, CC photo by flickr user oomlout is currently running a poll to determine what sort of free hardware project the community would most like to see developed. At present the poll is leaning heavily towards robots. So I thought it would be worthwhile to do a quick survey of existing free/open hardware robot projects to see what there is to work with and improve on. There are a lot of FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) robotics projects out there too but this article will focus on hardware projects that are under free hardware licenses. See the “about page” to learn more about the concepts of free / open hardware.

I’ve attempted to list the projects roughly in chronological order by the project’s creation date. To qualify for this list, a project needs several attributes: 1) it must be a complete mobile robot, not just part of a robot such as a manipulator arm 2) the hardware design documents (e.g. CAD files, schematics, etc) must be available under a free license (i.e. a license that protects the user’s basic freedoms – licenses with commercial-use restrictions are NOT free/open licenses, 3) at least one working robot must have been developed and demonstrated. Projects that are in the planning stages didn’t make the list as we’d like to see well-proven designs that have been well-tested in the real world.

Read on for the full list of free/open hardware robot designs!

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Products (Nanode, An Industry Perspective, Licensing Update)


Coming up for a year ago, at OSHUG #16, we heard three first-hand experiences of developing open source hardware designs into finished products. At the twenty-third meeting we'll further explore this topic through reflections on the Nanode project as it approaches its second anniversary, and an industry perspective on developing open source hardware. There will also be an update on developments in open source hardware licensing, a subject that was explored at the second OSHUG meeting back in May 2010.

As Nanode Approaches Two

With the second anniversary of the Nanode project approaching and in excess of 2,500 sold worldwide, this talk looks at the initial aims, commercialisation and spin-offs as a typical open source hardware design. Exploring the concept, start-up phase and challenge of maintaining momentum in a constantly evolving open source marketplace.

Ken Boak has worked in electronics hardware design for 25 years. Initially with BBC Research Department where Ken worked on early HDTV digital picture processing systems. In 1998 Ken embarked on ten years in telecommunications and volume product production in the Far East. Recently Ken has worked on scientific and educational instruments, and open source systems both in the UK and USA.

Open Source Hardware Licensing Update

It's been a busy time in open source hardware licensing - CERN's Open Hardware Licence has been undergoing a lot of work behind the scenes, and a new version is about to be released. There are rumours of a new version of the TAPR Open Hardware licence, and the debate between copyleft and academic licences rages on. Andrew Katz has been involved of all of these activities and will provide an update on the current state of licensing, and some pointers on the best licence to adopt.

Andrew Katz is a partner at boutique law firm Moorcrofts LLP in the Thames Valley. He specialises in IT/IP work, and in particular advises clients on licensing and liability issues around open source software.He was involved in drafting both GPL3 and the England and Wales version of the Creative Commons licence as well as all major open hardware licences. Many years ago, he designed and built a Z80 SS50 bus-based computer system, created a lightweight version of the Citroen Dyane, mainly by ripping it body off, and hacked together an air compressor from bits and pieces found in a scrapyard. He is currently part-time interim COO of the Maria DB foundation.

Developing Open Source Hardware: an Industry Perspective

RS Components have developed a new platform for which the hardware design will be published under an open source licence. This talk will provide an overview of this exciting new development and provide an insight into the motivations for making the design freely available to all. The product development and manufacturing process will also be covered in brief along with some of the challenges experienced, and the broader project goals and ongoing commitment to the open source community.

Mike Brojak is responsible at RS Components for the development of free resources for electronics engineers, and believes in helping engineers to be more productive in order to achieve their highest potential. His technical background is in hardware and software for embedded systems, primarily for mobile automation control. He has an Electronics Systems Design degree from Oxford Brookes University.

Note: Please aim to arrive for 18:00 - 18:20 as the event will start at 18:30 prompt.

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