Re: [rp-ml] Open source whatchamacallits

From: Steve Baker (
Date: Wed Aug 10 2005 - 03:53:09 EEST

Marshall Burns wrote:

> I've pondered going open source before. When James Howison and I gave our
> "Napster Fabbing" talk a few years ago at a P2P (peer to peer) conference, I
> tried to get into a few conversations with some open source sw gurus about
> how the idea could apply to hardware. I didn't come to see how it would, but
> then again, I still don't really understand how it works for software. As a
> struggling entrepreneur, I would look at people like Linus Torvalds (creator
> of Linux) and I'd say to myself, "Well, he's got a job, he doesn't have to
> worry about making a living from this." I haven't held a paycheck job for
> more than a few cumulative years in my half-century life, so I have to think
> about ways to turn what I do into revenue.

I'm an OpenSource contributor - I have written quite a body of software that's
released under GPL licensing.

I'm skeptical about the ability of significant numbers of people to make
money doing it. But that's not how it works.

Most (almost all, actually) OpenSource software developers have paying
day jobs writing or maintaining closed source software.

OpenSource software tends to be a hobby activity. People have been doing
programming 'for fun' since the very beginning of personal computers - but
it's only with the advent of the Internet that it's really been possible
to give away your works.

Why give your software away? Well, generally, what you write is only a
small part of some large piece of software - so it's not sellable as a
separate thing. Mostly, you write something because you need it yourself.
Then, you might as well give it away as hoard it to yourself. There is
even a positive benefit to doing that - other people pick it up and improve
it. They fix bugs, they add features, they document it, clean it up, port
it onto other computer platforms...and they do it for you for nothing.

Then there is a 'community' feeling - you make friends with fellow OpenSource
people - you chat to them about software - more software gets written.

OpenSource does come from other routes - big companies write software for
their own internal use - they discover that if they OpenSource it, other
people will fix bugs in it and maintain it for them. For a small company,
that can be a huge win.

> But I'm very intrigued with the open source idea and how it's been at the
> core of some very interesting software projects, Linux just being the
> best-known example. And I'm wondering, is there is some productive way to
> turn the Offset Fabbing technology into an open source resource?

I'm 100% certain that if domestic 3D printers don't forcable lock
out 'OpenSource' designs from being fabricated (which they might), then
hundreds and then thousands of OpenSourced designs will spontaneously

I might need a container for pencils and pens for my desk. I design something.
I fabricate one for myself - and because it's easy, I dump a copy of it onto
a web site where other people can get it.

Sometime later, I discover that my pen holder is a bit top-heavy and it falls
over a lot. Looking back at my web site, I discover that someone has already
gone in there and widened the base for me - there is a long email thread
about how people have decorated my pen holder design - and another person has
made my design work with other kinds of 3D printers - and yet another has
made a 10x bigger version to store garden tools in their garage.

Great! What do I care? Nobody was ever going to buy my design for a
wobbly pen holder anyway. It's worth more to me as an improved design
than it would have earned for me if I'd tried to sell it.

If even just a few hundred people in the world design things and give them
away for free, there will be thousands of designs out there on the web in
amazingly short order.

Will someone think of using a 3D printer to make another 3D printer?

Of course! Providing the technology allows motors, sensors, circuitry,
etc to be somehow incorporated in the finished product.

That's a project that a whole team of people might get together to make.
They'd do it so they could control the design - improve upon it. They'd
do it just for the meaning it gives to their lives to be part of a team.
They'd do it for fame - because it would look great on their resume.

If you want a better feel for how things might be, take a look at:

...this is a site that will take your 3D graphic models and either sell
them (you get to name the price) or give them away (if you prefer). You'd
ask "why would anyone ever give something away when they could sell it"?
Well, take a look. You'll see that maybe a third of the 3D models they
have there are given away for free. The ones you pay for are generally
better quality models - but not always.

Turbosquid is the exact kind of web site that would be a resource for people
seeking designs for their 3D printers.

---------------------------- Steve Baker -------------------------
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