Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Riding the open hardware wave with ladyada

This post is proud to have been syndicated to the Ponoko Blog.

If you haven’t already, check out ladyada’s website. She’s something of a veteran of open sourcing hardware, having developed several (mainly electronic) projects while at MIT and, indeed, since.

My favourite is the Spoke POV, a persistence of vision toy for your bicycle wheel. I have made up a couple and found her various source documents incredibly well written and helpful (she provides detailed assembly instructions, links to places to source components, schematics of the circuitry, circuit board layouts, source code for software elements. And of course you can download the latest version of the firmware and software and she’ll sell you a hardware kit at her commercial arm, Adafruit Industries (having limited interest in building electronic hardware, but an inexplicable urge to solder, this is what I did). The great thing is, there is a burgeoning community of developers and users on her forums – you can even just chip in with product suggestions if you don’t want to get into detail. And it’s not just for the SpokePOV- there are many more products to help develop.

SpokePOV board in EagleCAD

SpokePOV board being assembledSpokePOV in use

One development I would love to see, and which I fully intend to get on to with time, is a housing for the SpokePOV – the current trend is for cable tying the circuit board straight onto your spokes. I have in my minds eye a vacuum formed casing, and posting the source for the mould as some kind of 3D CAD file. But maybe I should be thinking of something laser cut, and using Ponoko as the platform.

It’s really exciting to think of what’s possible, developing a product for an already successful opens source software/hardware project. And it would be fun to take on the challenge of doing it with laser cutting, given that a standard platform now exists in Ponoko – that is, until Ponoko starts offering moulding!

The truth is, I haven’t got onto it in about a year, so may never. But have a look at ladyada’s projects and maybe see if there’s anything there that piques your interest!

Incidentally, ladyada also has a very interesting section on Open Hardware, covering her definition, licenses, and a list of projects from across the web.

Images courtesy of Bekathwia and Ladyada

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