Open-Source Commitment

What does open-source mean?

The term 'open-source'  historically refers to computer software or code in which the original source code is freely available to the public. This is often, though not always, at odds with the goal of running a for-profit business - it's hard to sell something that you're giving away for free. The advantages of the open-source approach are many - mainly, that it fosters re-use, adaptation and improvement of existing work, rather than requiring everyone to constantly reinvent the wheel.

Over time 'open-source' has been appropriated by other fields to represent the idea of giving away knowledge freely. Of particular interest to us is open source hardware - this is the idea of giving away all of the information needed to recreate a hardware product. For instance, if you designed a 3D-printed doodad in OpenSCAD, you might choose only to release the final 'compiled' STL - that wouldn't really be open-source, as someone can't come along and adapt or build on your work. If you released the original design file from OpenSCAD, and allow anyone else to use it as they see fit - then that would be open-source.

As with anything, things are often more complicated than they first seem (or should be). A myriad of different licensing options means that not all open-source hardware is truly equal - some licenses, such as the Creative Commons license, may restrict commercial use, or impose other restrictions. We used different Creative Commons licenses on some of our earlier products, but are gradually updating to the more open GNU General Purpose License (GPL) or CERN Open Hardware License (CERN OHL).

Open-source hardware and software are big fields of discussion, and there are better explanations than ours out there. If you're interested in reading further, the Wikipedia page on open-source hardware is a great place to start.

Is open-source hardware certified somehow?

Historically, no - typically the claim of being open-source hardware has not been actively enforced, and anyone can claim that their products are 'open', even if they are not. More recently, the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) has developed a framework through which hardware can be certified as open-source. This is a recent development, and we haven't yet worked with OSHWA on any of our products - however we look forward to doing so on future products.

Prior to the OSHWA, open-source hardware was typically self-certified and the open-source hardware logo (shown) used to signify that the product is open-source. Many of our products feature this mark.

What is your commitment to open-source hardware?

The 3D-printing community is built upon open-source work - namely the RepRap project, arguably one of the largest collections of open-source hardware, firmware and software in existence. We're well aware of the debt we owe, and are committed to doing our part to further foster open-source development. We do our best to release all of the source files relating to any hardware product we develop. Usually the source files will be documented on the associated Aus3D Wiki page for a given product, which is typically linked to from the product page. Often the source files themselves are hosted on our GitHub account.

The nature of these source files will vary depending on the type of product - for instance, for our RUMBA+ boards, we provide schematics, Altium source files, bill-of-materials, and Gerber PCB manufacturing files. This is typically everything someone else would need to come along and recreate or alter our design. For a mechanical product, such as our 3D printers, we release the CAD data used to design the machine - for instance, we have the source for our Mark2 printers here.

We do our best to document and release source for all the products we develop - but occasionally we might slip up. If you come across one of our products and you can't find the source for it, let us know so we can fix that!