Friday, April 13, 2007

Open Source Hardware

Do you have your fabber yet? I don't have mine just yet, but hopefully soon.

If so, then you can seel the products you make with it at an "open-source hardware marketplace" at MFGx. SpendMatters referred to the website as the MySpace for the Manufacturing Set.
Mitch Free seems like an unlikely person to be part of this whole social / community web-based 2.0 -- some might say 3.0 -- thing. After all, the manufacturing world does not exactly lend itself to online social networking, at least not yet. But Mitch is not one to listen to convention. His latest experiment is a free community site called MFGx which essentially is a custom-built online social networking community for manufacturers, large and small. It's quite cool, and already has some great threads and traffic on it.

One concept that Mitch introduced earlier this week in a discussion thread is fascinating. Mitch writes: "Should certain product manufacturers publish their designs for anyone to download and move towards an open source (hardware not software) model? I think so. Why, because it would leverage the masses to proliferate their low margin hardware platform and allow them to sell the high margin consumables or data content. Take Tivo for example, they will rebate your entire purchase price these days when you purchase a subscription to the Tivo service because they want to sell high margin data subscriptions ... So what if they just made their hardware design open source and allowed anyone to produce a Tivo platform device? It would allow greater proliferation of the platform and get them out of a 'lost leader' business, thus allowing them to sell more high margin subscriptions."

The concept of Open Source manufacturing is quite cool and forward looking. But many of the subjects on MFGx are much more pragmatic (such as containing volatile commodity prices and China sourcing). So even if you know nothing about this whole social networking phenomenon, get yourself over to MFGx and see how online communities can work in a business setting -- and why they're not just for kids on MySpace anymore!
This sort of social network will be essential for the future, especially if you are planning to settle the oceans or to settle space. Compared to those living on Earth, the first space settlers would have to made do with a shortage of many items that they want or need. A simple iPod could be very difficult to ship to a space settlement on Luna. But if you have the designs for an MP3/OGG music player, a fabber, and a store of mined material from Luna, then you could easily design your own.

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