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When thinking about open hardware, there are different possible business models. [@pearce2017Emerging Business Models for Open Source Hardware] discusses some of them:

The paper offers an overview of how open-hardware projects could become self-substained businesses (see: Open Hardware Business Models). Sadly, it is a mix and match of topics that were not really thought through. Most of the business models proposed are not exclusive of open-hardware nor benefit from the open-hardware approach itself.

In some cases, the comparison with software makes it completely miss the point. And electronics are a very special case, which can't be extrapolated to other tools that require much more labor intensive manufacturing process.

3D printing is great and all, but it is a tool. CNC milling is also a great tool, so why not even address it?

The paper cites Instructables, which is baked by Autodesk (perhaps it was not at the time of writing), which sells proprietary software. It cites examples of an enzyme producer who open-sources hardware in order to drive up sales of the enzymes (which are not open-source).

The beginning of the papers starts by citing that open-hardware tools are cheaper. This can be true from a material perspective, but what about the time it takes to produce them? It cites a syringe pump as an example, at 100U$ in materials. Adding the training and time for a person to print and build the syrynge, is it still competitive? What about the costs involved in the development of the syrynge? Of course, if this costs are put under the carpet because were paid for by a grant, we end up in an unfair comparison. Apples to oranges if you will.

I think this paper is a very naïve thought on what open-hardware means. It talks about community, but this is not exclusive to open (Raspberry Pi's can't be a clearer example). The main focus is in lowering costs, but it is not clear how this is achieved. Through unfair competition (not factoring in design and development times, training, etc.?), through lower quality?

Why not focusing the analysis on added value instead of lower costs? I, honestly, don't really think this papers sheds light beyond what anyone could already imagine. And of course, from a business perspective does not offer anything new nor even related to the nature of being open compared to being closed.

Finally, it talks about science-based developments, which are normally funded by public money, but it does not discuss at all how the technology transfer should happen.

Tags: #open-hardware #business-models #technology-transfer #literature-note


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