Aquiles Carattino

open hardware projects focus on cutting costs

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Many open hardware projects focus too much on the cheap aspect (e.g.: [@wijnen2014Open-Source Syringe Pump Library][@baden2015Open Labware: 3-D Printing Your Own Lab Equipment][@pearce2017Emerging Business Models for Open Source Hardware][@pearce2020Economic savings for scientific free and open source technology: A review]) and this is a problem for establishing the value of a product.

Most open-hardware projects when discussing costs, do not factor in the cost of development nor manufacturing. Given for granted the training it requires to get someone to do a proper 3D print, design electronics, or failed attempts.

These costs are very often covered by institutions (for example, a grant that pays a Ph.D. salary). New digital manufacturing methods are only exacerbating the problem, because instead of having one company mass-producing a tool, there are hundreds or thousands of people printing the same tool at their work place.

An open hardware business model should focus on the value the "open" delivers instead of the costs it helps cut because there is, in many cases, a very large chance that the true costs are not really compensated.

Moreover, open hardware should not be a strategy to overcome licensing by researchers. The fact that someone made it open does not mean there wasn't an institution absorbing risks, paying salaries, etc.


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Aquiles Carattino
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