We have been practicing open source business pattern for quite some time, you might have heard about our 13$ fusion PCB, fusion Kits, or collaborative projects like Bus Pirate, twatch and etc. It’s not like following angel’s trail, we glared in the darkness and follow intuitions. Thanks to the great community that give us many suggestions and ideas, we managed to get the ball rolling. The difficulty of making and distributing open source hardwares are not a melody. Unlike easy to copy software, it got to be physically made and shipped, even with all the source files and BOM in hand. Thus the most effective way for now, is still centralized production, especially for PCBs.
First we managed to provide PCB services for open source hardware. People do group buys to make common interest PCBs, it should happen to projects with reputation and well organized. On the other end, every PCB designed has its purpose, able to be reused by other people one way or another. So we held fusion PCB service to minimize the average cost and make better use of each effort.
Second is the effectiveness of organizing the resources to a Kit level, sourcing the BOM and distribute is another time consuming process. It’s not feasible to stock every common components for now, but feasible to a specified kit. We receive the basic costs to initiate it as a project, then publish it on our web store for retail. Any revenue will be send back to the designer on session end.
Finally, products. It needs a much greater efforts in doing a right product right, from trustworthy partnership to close communication, including penetrating design, in-depth tech support, detailed documentation, effective fulfillment process and many etc. IMHO, an eco-system could be like below diagram, in a propaganda way.
Simply put: 1) the designer links community by information 2) the community get product from Open hardware company3) Open hardware company collects profit for designer to support further improvement.
The community welcomes open hardware designs and needs the practical product to tweak with. They purchase from open hardware company to get the product, saving the costs and time. They communicate with original designer for ideas, supports, share thoughts and provides feedback.
The designer could concentrates on the product design, provide active support to the community, keep the product evolved, and save the efforts needed to get the product made. No need to build a web store, pack or post, just link to the product page in open source company web store. They get royalty or profit from the company to fund their innovation.
Lastly, the open hardware company cooperate closely with designer to introduce new open source designs, handle the prototype and manufacture process, then list the product in store for promotion. The community could get the products directly by simple purchase. All quality issues, logistic problems, after sales support are handled by the company. By consolidating more projects to strengthen their supply chain, the open hardware company are able to provide more professional service in gradually reduced costs.
We believe it could be a feasible pattern of open source hardware business. It’s never easy even for us to get a supply chain for small volume productions while guarantee the quality, but the successful projects like cooperation with HackaDay, Dangerous prototypes has enhanced our faith. There are always more details needs to improve, please feel free to lift your questions, it will be answered and summarized to a FAQ. 🙂 Your opinions and suggestions are sincerely welcomed!