Professional Maker


Best free open hardware projects

oshw-logo-800-pxAs with free and open source software, free and open hardware are key components to a sustainable and enriched future for all. We are all faced with a wide variety of environmental and social problems, of which the current closed and proprietary based economic system has little chance of solving. The inefficiencies of consumption based economics contribute highly to both these issues. The mass majority of designs and patents are owned by companies, with their primary interest is of selling you more products. Therefore it is not in their interest to design and create the best, long serving, repairable & upgradable products.

This is where free and open hardware comes to the rescue… If the consumer take responsibility of these products, longevity, upgrades & maintenance will be inherent in their design and creation.

It is early days for the free & open hardware movement and it needs your support, so I have compiled a list of what I currently believe and am aware of, the best and most important free and open hardware projects to help you understand what it is all about. These are not necessarily in order of best, as they all hold their own in their respective field. I am sure I have missed some other worthy projects out there, so please update me with them.

By reading the following and watching the respective videos, you should have a good understanding of why I and so many other people are excited and engaged in the open hardware movement…

Arduino Programmable Board

The Arduino is the perfect platform to get involved in programming and electronics. A lot a new open hardware projects involve Arduino’s, as they are so versatile and accessible, including my Open Source LED Clock which is based around the Arduino Nano. The first video should give you what it is and what the Arduino can do for you. The second is a 28 minute documentary that explains the initial journey of the Arduino and why it came into existence and if you want to get a deeper understanding of the open hardware movement, then this is well worth watching.


Open Source Ecology

This in fact encompasses a wide variety of projects, needed for a modern society, from a brick maker to tractor.


RepRap 3D Printer

Localised manufacture is key to a sustainable future and the open hardware movement. The below video was released about 4 years ago and has become a great success. The Reprap project has now evolved from the original reprap to a variety of new designs all that are all free to download and make yourself.
On the left you can see one of the original designs (RepRap Mendel) and on the right one of the latest( 3DR RepRap Delta printer).
RepRap Mendel 3DR RepRap Delta printer


Lasersaur – OS Laser Cutter

Laser cutters are becoming an important tool in the makers and hardware hackers arsenal. They allow for cutting and etching of a variety of materials, such as paper, wood, textiles and even light metals. Here is an open source laser cutter which is very close to an official release. Meanwhile, with a small donation you can access the beta files and get building.


Kikori CNC Router

Inspired by the Reprap, Judah Sher designed a free and open source CNC router for his final year project at Uni. It is predominantly made of 18mm Plywood components, of which can be cut on itself. This project was successfully funded in Kickstarter giving Judah the time to complete and release the designs into the community. Judah no longer has time to further develop the Kikori, so it’s now over to the open hardware community and is certainly on my projects to do list…
Kikori CNC router


Wikihouse Open Source Construction Set

Its all very well having all of the above open source tools, but what if you don’t have a workshop to house them? Well, now you can build an open source one, using the Wikihouse constructions set on a CNC router like the Kikori. Wikihouse is a construction set designed for anyone wanting to build their own timber framed home (or workshop). All the construction components are cut out of 18mm plywood which can be easily sustainably sourced.


Open Hand Project

I recently supported this project on Indiegogo and thought is was well worth adding to the list. This project is a open source prosthetic hand that open/closes when the user tenses their forearm muscle. A large proportion of the components can be printed using a 3D printer like the RepRap.


SmoothieBoard – OS CAM Control Board

Smoothie is a control board specifically designed for open hardware manufacturing tools, such as 3D Printers, Laser Cutters & CNC Routers and Milling Machines. The current design can handle up to 5 axis machines.


Parallella Parallel Computer

This is a powerful new parallel computing platform, design to run GNU/Linux. For certain computational tasks a regular desktop computer is simple not powerful enough and doesn’t have the correct type of architecture to get it done efficiently. Parallel computing is a subject in itself, but this video should give you an idea of why it important.

CNC Routing of Draycote Water Signs

Last year I was apart of a consultation to see how Severn Trent Water (STW) could enable its signage to be manufactured in house, as at the time it was outsourcing it all to an external company. STW owns lot of managed forest that surround its reservoirs, yet the timbre used for its signs in and around the public accessible areas was oak sourced from all the way in the United States. STW has it own saw mill capable of processing green freshly harvested timbre, along side a full equipped work shop and willing staff to manufacture their signs. The only issue was they lacked someone with the necessary skills, training and enthusiasm to create all the CAD files and operate the CNC router, and that’s where I came in. As and when required I work on site to complete my part of the sign manufacturing process.

Shortly after it was establish that it had become feasible to create any signs in house a new project emerged consisting of large welcome road entrance signs for the 6 largest public access sites.

Draycote Water was the first to be completed in April 2013, just in time for the re-opening of its renovated visitors centre. Below you can see the road entrance signs, each consisting of a Severn Trent Water logo, large “Welcome to…” and 4 icons representing some of the key activities of this site.

Dracote Water Left CNC Sign Dracote Water Left CNC Sign

Both Draycote Entrance CNC Signs Dracote Entrance with Car


Within the visitor centres their are several maps to help visitors navigate the facilities open to the public.

IMG_2024_web IMG_2025_web IMG_2023_web

Beneath the visitors centre are icons to highlight the restaurant, toilets & shop.

IMG_2030_web IMG_2034_web

At the point of publishing this blog post Foremark Reservoir & Carsington Reservoir have now been completed and installed. The final 3 of 6 of this initial signage project should be installed before the end of the year. I will add photos of these new installations soon.

Derby Makers at the launch of Proud of Derby campaign


Being an active member of Derby Makers (a collective of individuals who share an interest in making, modifying and improving anything and everything), I helped out in representing at the launch of a new campaign by the Derby City Council “Proud of Derby”.


At this event Derby Makers shared a stall with Derby Silk Mill, of which we displayed just a few of the projects that the Derby Makers members have created. One of which was my Arduino powered LED clock. This was the first time my prototype has ventured out into the public. My objects of the LED clock project is to create a open source, hackable clock, as an educational device to encourage people interested in technology to learn how adapt and improve something for there own needs, of what hacking is all about. I still have some improvements to make before I will be have to officially launch my open source LED clock, along with creating the tools to encourage a thriving community, so watch this space…


Here you can see rope being made using Mark’s rope making machine, of which he has used on previous occasions such at scout meetings to engage and educate.

Below are a few links to press releases about the launch of the “Proud of Derby” campaign if you wish to know more…

BBC Video News feature

Derby City Council Article

This Derbyshire – Derby Evening Telegraph Article with video