Why you should use Free and Open Source Software to design your hardware

When you design hardware, it is very likely that you want to share your design files with others. At the very least, you may want to open your files and edit them in the future. This blog entry explains the advantages of using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) if you want to make sure you always have access to your files.

Layout of a circuit using KiCad, a FOSS tool to design Printed Circuit Boards

Commercial not the opposite of FOSS

‘Commercial software’ is not the opposite of ‘FOSS’. The opposite of ‘FOSS’ is ‘proprietary software’.  A proprietary program is one for which you do not have meaningful access to the source code. You can buy support for FOSS, and then it’s commercial FOSS. In fact, many argue that it’s a winning combination: you avoid lock-in situations because it’s open-source, but you contribute to the sustainability of the project and you don’t expect people to work for free, which unfortunately is often the case with open-source projects. 

The problem with proprietary tools

The most important issue with proprietary tools is the dependency on an external entity, typically a software company, to be able to open and edit the content you created to begin with. We are so used to accepting this that we don’t see anymore how unnatural it is. Imagine you kept a hand-written diary. Some of these diaries come with a lock for privacy reasons. Now imagine that every time you wanted to open your diary you had to ask a company for the key to the lock. The company could ask you for regular payments to continue giving you the key every time you asked for it, and if you stopped paying you would not have access anymore to the years of content you might have already written in those pages. Even if you were willing to pay, the company could go belly-up, or their priorities could change, and you might lose access to your diary. Sounds ludicrous, right? Yet, this is what we accept every time we generate content using a proprietary tool. The current trend for design software to be ‘in the cloud’ and for licensing to be subscription-based gives tool providers even more control over who can access files and when.

But my EDA vendor gives me this super-good deal!

Some people invoke low prices of a given proprietary Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tool as a reason not to worry too much. Versions of the tools with limited capabilities are sometimes even available for free! EDA vendors can give extreme discounts to users as part of their commercial strategy. For example, academic institutions often get very good deals because vendors know that these tools have a steep learning curve and once a user has developed the muscle memory to be super-efficient, they are very likely to ask for the same tool in their next job, which may be in a company paying the full standard license fee. 

Does that mean that you are safe provided you work in an academic institution? Ask people working there, and you will find out that changes in the strategy of EDA providers (for example as a result of new management) can easily result in abrupt license fee increases. The feeling of helplessness in those cases is hard to describe, especially if you already have a huge number of designs done with that tool.

Zero or very-low license fees create the illusion that you will not lose much if you have to change tools as a result of a price increase, because you never paid them much to begin with. This may be true unless you and your colleagues have invested a big effort learning the tool and creating content you may not be able to access again. For example, a single PCB design might have taken hundreds of hours and multiple iterations to be completed; you might still have the Gerber files for production, but if you need to make a small modification, there is a significant cost to starting the whole layout project again.

If, on the other hand, you think that you may be willing to accept a steep increase in fees to be able to keep access to your files, I have bad news for you: your EDA vendor may be doing that very calculation for you as you read this. One cannot blame a commercial company for wanting to make more money. That’s what companies do. Whether your interests and theirs are aligned enough for you to purchase a proprietary license to their software is for you to judge. At this point it is worth noting that many users absolutely want to pay in exchange for the assurance that they will get technical support if they need it. This is a reasonable expectation when one uses a tool for important design work. As I mentioned earlier, it is very possible to buy that kind of support for an open-source tool. It is also an excellent way to help the project, funding software development work while maintaining the benefits of FOSS. Proprietary licenses typically conflate two aspects which are largely independent: the ability to open and edit your files on one hand, and the support if anything goes wrong on the other. You can certainly get the latter without compromising on the former.  

Call to action

Every designer wants to be able to share designs with their future self. If, in addition, you are designing Open Source Hardware (OSHW), your motivation to use FOSS should be even stronger. Open-source tools are sometimes lacking in features and quality. This may be partially explained by the fact that developers are often volunteers who join a project to ‘scratch their own itch’. As a result, conceptual integrity and user experience may get less priority than they should. You can help develop a good open-source tool in your domain (mechanics, electronics or other) in many ways. Contributing code, helping fund development or steering these projects to make them more organized and scalable are just some of the ways people are already doing this. In software development, many of the best tools are open-source. Awareness of the importance of FOSS in guaranteeing easy sharing and absence of lock-in is a first step. This blog entry, necessarily limited in scope and depth, is meant to raise this awareness. A longer version, describing Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design to make things more concrete and tackling the important subject of file formats, is available here. So, what next? If you would like to discuss further and see how we can get organized and reach critical mass in this important endeavor, feel free to post your questions, ideas, suggestions, etc. in the OSHWA Forums. Let’s make FOSS the standard way of sharing OSHW designs!

Open Source Hardware Certification IDs Are Live!

Last month at the Open Hardware Summit we announced the start of the OSHWA open source hardware certification program.  Part of that program involved issuing unique IDs (UIDs) for each piece of registered hardware.  Since we knew that low numbers would be hot properties, we decided to wait until the end of October to assign them.  That allowed us to give every piece of hardware registered in the month of October a chance for the lowest possible number.

Today, thanks to the good people at random.org, we have assigned those UIDs to all pieces of hardware registered before the end of October.  We have also started assigning numbers sequentially for all pieces of hardware registered since November started.  You can see all of the registered hardware  here.

There were 60 different projects registered from 9 different countries.  Want to get your own UID?  Register here!

Congrats 2016-2018 Board Members!

Thank you to our members who voted for OSHWA’s new board members! Your vote is a major contribution as we need to reach quorum (at least 10% of our members) to make anything official in OSHWA. This year, we filled 5 board member seats which will be held for 2 years. For the first time ever, we had a tie for the 5th board position between Abhishek Narula and Luis Rodriguez. The board decided to make the decision through a coin flip and create an honorary position for the other person.

Please welcome our new board members Nadya Peek, Harris Kenny, Michael Weinberg, Matthias Tarasiewicz, Luis Rodriguez, and honorary member Abhishek Narula!


Thank you to all who participated in nominations!

2nd Open Source Hardware Encounter El Salvador

2nd Open Hardware Encounter El SalvadorLast October 8th we had the chance to share with our community some of the projects and advances made by our community during the 2nd Open Source Hardware Encounter, held in San Salvador, El Salvador. Our first event was organized by our promoter team in 2013, which gave way to the development of the community and its affiliation as an OSHWA Branch since February 2016. Since its beginning, the community has grown and participates mostly through local events organized in El Salvador, and social media. The event took place at the Francisco Gavidia University in San Salvador and brought local designers and enthusiasts. We also had the great pleasure of inviting the members of Southmade, the Open Hardware Community in Ecuador as part of the exchange that we have generated as the first international branches of the Open Hardware Association in the region.



We’ll post talks of the event on our YouTube channel soon!

Mario Gómezdsc_7420

2016-2018 Board Nominees

Become an OSHWA member today to vote on nominees!

This year, we have 5  open seats on the OSHWA board. Board members will hold a 2-year position. Once board members have been chosen by the community, the board will appoint a President, VP, and Secretary. As every nominee answered “Yes” to having 5 hours a month to give to the board, we did not include that question in each nominee’s data. Board responsibilities include fundraising, advising on goals and direction, and carrying out compliance of the organization’s purposes and bylaws. The vote will be open on Oct. 16th through Oct 18th. Since the post is so long, here is also a .pdf spreadsheet of the nominees. Members will be emailed a link to vote. Here are the nominees in alphabetical order:

Harris Kenny                                                                                                                  

Why do you want to be on the board?

I believe in technology and culture that respect user freedom. I believe in what OSHWA is doing to advance these values, and that I could contribute a board member. As a board member, I would work to both execute current projects (e.g. OH Summit, certification) and also bring new ideas to help improve and grow OSHWA.

First, I believe there is room to expand OSHWA’s use of Free and Open Source tools in its operations as an organization. I feel I could most effectively advocate and implement this on the board, by both contributing and helping channel organizational and community resources to get it done. I personally use GNU/Linux and Free Software and would enjoy expanding the use of these tools by OSHWA.

I believe there is an opportunity to expand the resources OSHWA makes available to corporate members to help them grow their companies. For example, I recently started participating in the Open Source Design community and see great opportunities to share knowledge from groups like this and offer their expertise to OSHWA corporate members.

Finally, there a growing number of hardware companies being started thanks to 3D printing, however they are unfamiliar with Open Source Hardware. My work in the 3D printing industry and position on the board would help me advocate Open Hardware to those companies and (hopefully) increase their participation in the new OSHWA certification program.

It would be a privilege to join the OSHWA board. Thank you for your consideration!

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I am firmly committed to Open Source Hardware, Free Software, and Libre Innovation. I would bring this perspective to the board, continuing the progress OSHWA has made since its founding. I also believe my professional and educational experience are qualifications that make me a good fit for the board.

Professionally, I have demonstrated my commitment to Open Source Hardware during my nearly three years at Aleph Objects, Inc., a Free Software, Libre Innovation, and Open Source Hardware company and maker of the LulzBot line of desktop 3D printers. As Vice President of Marketing, I have had the privilege to help build the company as the 17th hire and first full time marketing hire, up to 140 employees (and growing!) today.

I am about to complete a MBA from the University of Denver. This education and my past professional experience in management and ERP consulting enable me to bring business insights to both help run OSHWA as an organization and help understand the needs of its corporate members.

Through my MBA, I have experience consulting with an organization that has a working board like OSHWA. I know how important it is for the board get things done to serve its members and grow the community. I recognize that joining the OSHWA board will mean work, and I welcome that.

Overall, I encourage members to consider commitment to Open Source Hardware as the most important qualification for the board. While I do have this, there are many others in the community who share these values and I would be proud to support them on the board if I am not selected.

Luka Mustafa                                                                                                                 


To contribute towards making open hardware the de-facto way in the field of technology and thus cultivate the global development bringing together the best of many awesome technical developments that exist today. I believe we should collectively move towards transferring the success of open hardware for the maker movement into industry and everyday products we use. Open hardware is now in the position to significantly change they way we think about technology though four key topics: Open is Future-proof, enabling modification and upgrades of products, extending the lifespan of devices and making them more suitable for a larger number of users and empower them to be a part of the product more then from the passive user perspective. Open enables Collaborative-design, thus fundamentally shifting the manufacturer/user dynamics from one way communication to a joint effort to create the best solution. Open drives Fair-production on a significantly more fundamental level then simple transparency that is already becoming a norm, gaining trust of users though sharing the information and thus bear the collective responsibility of all technology users. Open means Total-ownership, contrasting a number of recent bad practices in industry where users are merely leasing the devices from the manufacturer cloaked under the normal sale and directly prohibiting the right to fix and modify for personal use. I wish to be on the board to drive the discussion on moving forward with open hardware outside the scope of maker movement and applying it to a larger number of products in our life.


The past 5 years I have dedicated to exploring open hardware from a number of different perspectives and projects and am currently a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow and the founder of Institute IRNAS Race based in Slovenia, Europe dedicated to applying scientific advances to practice though open hardware. I have initiated the development of open source wireless optical communication system http://koruza.net that enables 1Gbps/10Gbps connectivity with light between buildings, set the development direction for http://goodenoughcnc.eu project to create affordable and self-replicating CNC machines on a global scale as well as a number of more scientifically oriented projects ranging for Symbiolab open hardware biolaboratory, a more recent development Vitaprint 3D printer for bio applications. I have been speaking at a number of scientific and open hardware events and evaluate the use of open hardware though my projects not only from the technical but also economical and legal perspectives. As well I am active in the Community wireless networking field though project http://wlan-si.net and have organized one edition of the largest annual event in this field, the Battlemesh V8 conference. My CV can be found on the following link: http://irnas.eu/team

Abhishek Narula                                                                                                               


An artist engineer and an engineer artist, I am interested in exploring the space created between the intersection of art and technology. I use open source technology as a way of setting a critical lens on technological innovation. Through this I try to show how we interact with technology and also how we interact with each other. Being on the board will allow me to further explore these issues with the community at large. I also want to create an active community that uses technology as a medium for creative expressions and the arts. Being on the OSHWA will help me with this objective.


In our current situation, we are faced with many problems that pertain to the environment, education, societal justice etc. and the only way to address these is through collaborative communities. These communities can only be effective if they have access to free and unabridged information. Any systems and processes that hinder such conditions are not only anti-humanity, but in my humble opinion should be confronted, criticized and defeated with all our fervor. My background in electrical engineering, art and business give me the skills to contribute to the sustainability of the open source hardware community. A big part of my practice is based around community engagement, especially around the tools that I build and use. If elected on the board, I will be able to leverage this to further advance the objectives of OHSWA.

Nadya Peek                                                                                                              


I believe technology to be a democratic tool. To enable this, I believe in creating reusable, modular, extensible, interoperable, and accessible technologies. Specifically, I believe in creating infrastructural technologies that can serve any (unintended) application. The Internet is a previous example of a successful infrastructure (providing a platform for applications such as the world wide web, email, or VOIP). Crucially, internet standards were open, free, and iteratively created by a community of practitioners. I believe Open Source Hardware can (and sometimes already does) fulfill similar infrastructural needs. Especially with excitement and progress around internet of things, self-driving cars, data-driven insights, robotics, or digital fabrication, I believe it is crucial to create, maintain, and improve free and open standards and to prevent walled gardens or silos of technology. Maker culture champions broader-base participation in technology, and I want to work on making sure that participation makes real lasting changes. I would like to serve on the board of the Open Hardware Association as I believe it to be an organisation uniquely focussed on developing, discussing, and disseminating open standards for technology.


I have been actively developing open source hardware for the past decade. I develop open-source fabrication technology under the Machines that Make project, and develop open-source machine controls and software at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. I have worked on many engineering teams including for aerospace, manufacturing, medical devices, and architectural applications. I have helped set up more than 50 Fablabs and makerspaces throughout the world, giving me ample experience with how many different kinds of people interact with many different kinds of technology. I am one of the organisers of the annual global Fablab conference and am familiar with event planning and fund raising. I am an advisor to the Fab Foundation (a non-profit that globally facilitates fab labs), a judge for Hackaday’s prize, and on the editorial board of HardwareX, Elsevier’s open access journal focussed on open hardware. I have spoken about hardware and manufacturing on many occasions including at the White House, Solidcon, HOPE, and Chaos Computer Club Congress. I have a PhD from MIT and am in a band called Construction.

Luis Rodriguez                                                                                                              


I see the open source hardware movement as a complete necessity for the future of the overall Free and Open Source movement. There are two key principles I’d like to ensure our community understands, 1) Open Hardware development is a key requirement to the success of the open source community 2) Open Hardware development is very likely where the best evolutionary methodology for the combination of best hardware and software will come about.

I’d like to help connect the open hardware community with FOSS projects and ensure nothing stands in between the two.

I have written about this here:



I’ve been working on the Linux kernel community for over 10 years now and have been in the trenches on dealing with companies addressing all regulatory concerns to support 802.11 drivers openly without firmware, and when firmware was required convinced companies to release firmware as open source. 802.11 was one of the last frontiers for getting proper support from vendors upstream on Linux, the experience gained in successfully addressing both legal challenges and Fear Uncertainty and Doubt in the industry over FOSS with wireless technologies should prove useful for helping the open hardware movement when faced with similar problems in the future with newer technologies.

I have also previously worked for a large non-fab silicon company, and have seen the issues we face in the community with both a largely patent encumbered world, and the limitations this imposes in our ecosystem.

I’d like to proactively help the open hardware movement by doing R&D in forecasting and addressing possible issues before they come up and connecting communities in the collaborative world as best as possible.

J. Simmons                                                                                                                 


TL;DR – I think it is the right thing to do…

In 2009 I founded Mach 30 with a group of like minded individuals in order to develop open source spaceflight hardware. From the outset, I was on the lookout for others developing open source hardware of any kind so we could support each other under the belief that a rising tide helps all ships.

The moment I heard about the first Open Hardware Summit I made sure Mach 30 sent representatives so we could begin to connect with the larger OSHW community (we have been at every OHS since, except Rome). Later, when the OSHW movement’s leaders started work to form OSHWA, I shared Mach 30’s public documentation on our experience incorporating as a 501c3 public charity in the hopes that OSHWA could benefit from the lessons we learned when we incorporated.

And, now, I feel it is time to make the next step in showing my support for the OSHW community by stepping up to becoming a member of the board of directors.


I have been involved in non-profits for the majority of my life. I spent much of my school age years volunteering in community theaters, taking on roles on and off stage. I then went and got my undergraduate degree in technical theatre, which included courses in theatre (read non-profit) management. I applied all of these experiences to volunteer work in theatre until 2006.

Since 2009, I have been the president of Mach 30 (mach30.org), a non-profit dedicated to developing open source spaceflight hardware. As the president of Mach 30, I have run well over 100 business meetings (documenting these meetings with the same care we document our OSHW projects), worked on projects ranging from distributed Yuri’s Night celebrations (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4TLxWVTIgM) to the development of OSHW projects like a rocket test stand (https://opendesignengine.net/projects/shepard-ts), and presented about OSHW at multiple Open Hardware Summits. You will also find some of my writing about OSHW documentation practices in Alicia Gibb’s book “Building Open Source Hardware”.

Matthias Tarasiewicz (parasew)                                                                                      


I want to work on communicating Open Hardware to non-engineers and work on cultural aspects of Open Hardware communities, such as we did in our recent Book “Openism – Conversations in Open Hardware”. I want to contribute with our institute (RIAT) which is located in Vienna, Austria. I can help to organise and communicate European issues and be a contact point for European initiatives.


I am active in communicating Open Source Hardware and Open Source in general since more than 10 years. I am publishing books and articles about open culture and i am located in Europe, which would make me an ideal board member for European issues. I was the coordinator for the European Union project “AXIOM”, the first Open Hardware professional cinema camera and i am still very active in this project, so i know about the issues and challenges of Open Hardware design/development/distribution/fundraising, etc.

Michael Weinberg                                                                                                             


To continue working on the OSHWA open source hardware certification.


“Qualifies” may be a strong word, but I have been on the board for the last two years and OSHWA hasn’t caught on fire. I’ve also done some of the work on the new open source hardware certification. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll probably keep doing that even if I’m not on the board.


Become an OSHWA member today to vote on nominees!

Announcing the OSHWA Open Source Hardware Certification Program


Today the Open Source Hardware Association is excited to announce the OSHWA Open Source Hardware Certification program.  The program allows hardware that complies with the community definition of open source hardware to display a certified open source hardware logo.  It will also make it easier for users of open source hardware to track down documentation and more information.  You can check out the program here, and keep on reading for some information about how it will work.



These companies and organizations have agreed to certify at least one piece of hardware by the end of this year.

Background and Purpose

Almost a year and a half ago, OSHWA announced its intention to explore the creation of an Open Source Hardware certification.  At that point, the open source hardware community had created a community definition of open source hardware and the open source hardware open gear logo.  Both of these were significant contributions to the growth in awareness around open source hardware.

By design, no one owns the term “open source hardware” or the open gear logo.  This allowed both the term and the logo to be widely adopted by the community.  However, it also created a challenge.  In many cases, creators would label their hardware as being open source and use the open gear logo without complying with the community definition.  This created confusion in the community where users were unsure what it really meant when something was labeled “open source hardware”.

The certification is designed to complement the existing open gear logo by bringing clarity to how the creator is using the term “open source hardware”.  Unlike the open gear logo, the certification logo is controlled by OSHWA.  In order to use the certification logo, a hardware creator must make a legally binding promise that their hardware complies with the community definition of open source hardware. That means that when users see the certificated open source hardware logo they know the hardware complies with the community definition of open source hardware.

In the summer of 2015, OSHWA asked the community a number of questions about how a certification might work and what kind of value it might bring.  By the 2015 Open Hardware Summit, those discussions had coalesced around version 1 of the Open Source Hardware Certification Specification.  In the year since, OSHWA has worked with the Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic at Stanford University Law School to turn that specification into a fully functional registration system.

The System

Starting today, you can register your hardware for free by certifying that it complies with the community definition of open source hardware.  The registration site – certificate.oshwa.org – has an overview of the process, the text of the license agreement for use of the certification logo, guidelines for how the logo can be used, a history of the certification process, an FAQ related to the certification, a form that allows you to register your hardware, and a directory of registered hardware that includes links to relevant documentation and information.

Upon registration, you will receive the right to use the certification logo and a unique identifier for the registered version of your hardware.


That unique ID has two components.  The first two characters represent a country code.  Open source hardware is a worldwide community, and the country code is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate that fact.  The remaining characters are numbers assigned sequentially based on when the hardware was registered.

The Importance of Your Contribution

One of the critical elements of the certification process is the idea of the creator contribution.  Hardware often involves many third party components outside of the control of the designer.  Therefore, it is unreasonable to require every component of a piece of hardware to be fully open before becoming certified.

The creator contribution rule is an attempt to address this issue. In order to certify a piece of hardware, the creator must fully open any elements of the hardware that is within their control.  If they have the legal ability to license it, it must be licensed openly.  If they created documentation, that documentation must be freely distributed.

If components were created by third parties, the creator does not have the ability to license them or distribute the documentation.  In those cases, the creator merely has to disclose the parts in the bill of materials and certify that they are available without an NDA.  This system allow creators to distribute legitimately open source hardware without creating a (currently) unrealistic burden to find fully open components.


OSHWA has designed this process to be as user friendly and straightforward as possible.  However, it does require users of the certification to make a legally binding promise that they will only use the certification logo on hardware that complies with the community definition.  We recognize that this sort of legal promise can raise concerns or cause uncertainty for some community members.  Therefore, we encourage users to write in to certification@oshwa.org with questions.

While OSHWA will work hard to answer as many questions as possible, some questions may require legal advice.  That is why we have partnered with the Cardozo Law School Tech Startup Clinic.  The clinic has agreed to receive referrals from OSHWA for free and low-cost legal advice regarding the certification process.  We hope to add additional clinics and resources to this program in the future.  (If you are a lawyer who would like to be involved with the referral program, please contact us at certification@oshwa.org).

About Those Unique IDs

Ever since we started discussing unique IDs that were sequential, we’ve gotten variations of a single question: “how can I get a low number?”  In order to give as many community members as possible the opportunity to obtain a coveted low unique ID number, we have decided not to start issuing numbers until the end of October.  All hardware registered before the end of October will be combined into a single pool, from which we will issue IDs starting November 1.  That means that all pieces of hardware registered before the end of the month have an equal opportunity at low registration numbers.  Starting November 1, we will start issuing IDs as hardware is registered.

Version 1

This is the first version of the OSHWA Open Source Hardware Certification program.  It was designed with a great deal of community input and is intended to complement existing pillars of the community.  We hope that you take a look, try it out, and find it useful.  At the same time, we know that as the certification program grows we will find things that can be improved and applications that we failed to anticipate.  That’s why we welcome your thoughts and ideas in the comments of this post, in the forums, in the certification@oshwa.org inbox, and online @OSHWassociation.

In order to provide that feedback, you first need to check out the certification. So stop reading this blog post, click on over to certificate.oshwa.org, and register something!

Don’t have anything documented enough to register?  Bring a project to one of the Documentation Days around the world (or host your own) as part of Open Hardware Month so you can make it easier for people to build on your stuff.

OSHWA 2016-2018 Board Nominations Open!

OSHWA is looking for 5 new faces to join the board of directors for the Open Source Hardware Association. The nominee form is for self-nominations only. Please fill out the nominee form to become a nominee or forward the link to someone you want to nominate. Do not fill out the form for someone else. The purpose of this form is to tell voting members why you want to server on the OSHWA board. We will be publish the nominees and their answers on Oct. 14th. Board members hold a 2-year position. Once board members have been chosen by the community, the board will appoint a President, VP, and Secretary. Board responsibilities include fundraising, advising on goals and direction, and carry out compliance with the organizations purposes and bylaws. See the board member agreement to get a sense of the responsibilities. Board members are expected to adhere to the board attendance policy and come prepared having read the board packet. Board members are expected to spend 5-10 hours of time per month on OSHWA. Nominees can meet current board members who are present at the Summit on Oct. 7th to ask questions or submit questions to info@oshwa.org. Nominations will be open until Oct. 14th.

Nominee form.

Member voting will take place Oct. 16-18. Want to vote in the election? Become a member! Please note that only individuals can vote, corporate members cannot.

October IS Open Hardware Month

October is Open Source Hardware Month. You are invited to participate in events that will add clarity to the open source hardware definition, grow contributions to the movement, and provide education around how to publish a project or product as open source hardware.

Open Hardware Summit

The Open Hardware Summit is just a week away! OSHWA will be hosting our annual Open Hardware Summit in Portland, OR on October 7th. OSHWA is launching the Open Source Hardware Certification at the Summit. Tickets to the Summit are still available but going fast. See you in Portland!

OSHW Certification

OSHWA will launch the first version of the open source hardware certification. This is an open source hardware certifications administered by OSHWA. This certification is designed to benefit at least two parts of the open source hardware community.

First, it benefits purchasers of open source hardware by making it easy to identify truly open source hardware in the marketplace.  Projects and products obtaining certification and displaying the certification logo clearly communicate a commonly agreed upon definition of openness with customers and users.  While certification is not a condition for openness, obtaining certification is a way to make it clear to others that a given project is open source hardware.

Second, the certification benefits creators of open source hardware.  By giving creators specific guidelines, certification allows open source hardware creators to confidently declare their projects and products as open source hardware.  Certification also allows creators to defend that declaration by pointing to compliance with specific criteria defined in the certification process.

Users will self-certify compliance in order to use the certification logos.  Self-certification will give creators the right to use the OSHWA open source hardware certification logo.  As part of the self-certification process, creators will agree to subject themselves to penalties for non-compliance.  OSHWA will be responsible for enforcing those penalties.

Documentation Days

Throughout the month of October, OSHWA will be hosting several documentation days for anyone, individual or company to participate. Documentation Days will be free, community organized events to document your most recent open source hardware project following the OSHW definition and guidelines. This is the perfect time to document that project you just haven’t gotten around to open sourcing. Look on the events page for documentation days in your community throughout October. Or host your own Documentation Day! Follow us onTwitter or Facebook to stay tuned to the action.

Join OSHWA Today!

The Open Source Hardware Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to being the voice of the open hardware community, ensuring that technological knowledge is accessible to everyone, and encouraging the collaborative development of technology that serves education, environmental sustainability, and human welfare. Become a member of OSHWA today! Board nominations and voting will happen soon, members get voting rights!

Open Source Hardware Certification Launching at the Summit

Come for the great speakers and community, stay to find out about the brand new open source hardware certification program (tickets are still available).

After lots of work by lots of people stretching back . . . lots of time, OSHWA is finally ready to unveil our open source hardware certification program.  The certification will be a way for the open source hardware community to know that when a project or product calls itself “open source hardware” they mean the version of “open source hardware” that complies with the community definition of open source hardware.

At the summit we’ll explain how you can get your stuff certified, how you can use the certification to learn more about stuff you get from other people, and other things that you might want to know about the certification.  There’s no substitute for getting that information in person (trust me), so if you don’t already have tickets click here!

Documentation Days – Host your own!


What is Documentation Day?

Throughout the month of October, OSHWA will be hosting several documentation days for anyone, individual or company, to participate. Documentation Days will be free, community organized events to document your most recent open source hardware project following the OSHW definition and guidelines. Look for documentation days from OSHWA’s board members and branches in their communities throughout October. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to stay tuned and for dates and locations of our events and look for updates on our blog.

Why Documentation Days?

October is Open Source Hardware Month. This is the perfect time to document that project you  haven’t gotten around to documenting but want to make it open source. Documenting your hardware is the most important step in open sourcing your hardware because it gives other people a way to use, build upon, and possibly improve it. Your well-documented designs will live on and take various shapes as other people use them, create derivatives and share them. It is much easier to ask the community for help or find collaborators with well-documented hardware.  Publishing your design files publicly can also establish your hardware as prior art.  If someone attempts to patent something similar, that prior art can prove that the hardware existed before the patent application, thus preventing it from being granted.  Finally, more open source hardware documentation will set an example for others to open source and document their hardware!  This year’s Documentation Days will help standardize key elements of good open source hardware documentation.

To bolster the community-written Open Source Hardware definition, OSHWA is launching the open source hardware certification in October as well. Take this opportunity to read about the certification and join the movement.

Who can host a Documentation Day?

Anyone can host a documentation day! OSHWA’s board members will be hosting documentation days in various locations, but we can’t be everywhere. It is unlikely that OSHWA will be able to help with costs of a documentation day, but below are some tips to keep it cheap.  

How do you set up a documentation day?

Find a venue that has tables and chairs. Your local hackerspace may be a wonderfully aligned space to host a documentation day (and hopefully will not charge you a venue rate!). Public libraries may have free meeting rooms as well. Make sure the venue has lots of outlets for laptops – you may need to supply power strips.

Work with the venue to solidify a date. Send the date, time, location, and other details of your event to info@oshwa.org and your event will appear on the OSHWA Events page. If you’d like some physical handouts, include your mailing address.

Set up a way to RSVP (Email, Meetup, Eventbrite) if necessary. This is optional. You know your local area better than we do.

Use this logo when promoting your event: 


Promote the event. The event must be a free, public event. Tweet @oshwassociation and we will retweet your event. Use hashtag #DocumentationDay.

Day of event:

  • Thank people for coming, introduce your documentation day as part of OSHWA’s Documentation Day series. Show slides and materials given to you by OSHWA. Point people towards oshwa.org and certificate.oshwa.org with questions.
  • After documenting hardware projects, ask people to use hashtag #iopensourced and #oshw and link to what they’ve documented.
  • Document the documentation day!  What worked?  What didn’t?  Did you and your participants develop any systems, processes, or templates that made creating documentation easier?  Be sure to share them with the larger community.
  • Don’t forget to clean up the venue at the end of your event.