You’ve heard about desktop 3D printers, right? Of course you have. But did you know that 3D printers have been around for 50 years? They always used to cost tens of thousands, or millions of dollars. Then Dr. Bowyer at the University of Bath founded the open source RepRap project. He made the plans for a <$1,000 3D printer available under an open source license, people started making copies, and founding businesses, and improving the design(s).
Dr. Pearce at Michigan Tech is doing a lot of work to not only develop 3D printers, but also develop lab tools that can be 3D printed. It turns out there’s an awful lot of stuff you can do, at a very low cost, if you just share the instructions for how to do it.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) tools don’t always have to be expensive. By first making the digital fabrication tools open source, and then making the STEM tools open source, the whole stack becomes several orders of magnitude cheaper.
- “When engineering students start college, the high cost of proprietary tools can be a barrier…Recent advances in free and open source 3D printing have lowered rapid prototyping costs…The software industry already knows the force of open source, so now it’s time to start teaching free and open source hardware to all engineers.”
- “The open source hardware community is steadily building on the foundation laid by the free and open source (FOSS) community. Open hardware really took off with the low-cost, easy-to-learn Arduino microcontroller. Of all the amazing projects it enables, perhaps the most interesting was the open source RepRap 3D printer…”
- “The students were already makers in their own right, but the world of open source was new to most of them…All the tools they used in class will be available to them forever.”
- “…labs can save enormous sums of money by 3D printing equipment.”
- “By having an in-depth understanding of the tools, the designs were better. They were able to push the machines to their limits, and if that wasn’t good enough to do what they wanted, they could improve and hack the tools themselves.