Open Source Product Development

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Open Source Product Development (OSPD) is the development of products (goods and services) that leverages open collaboration and clear documentation as a means to involve large numbers of distributed contributors in the development process. This is in contrast to proprietary development - the standard development model in the current economy. OSE promotes OSPD as not only a route - but as a prerequisite to - Economic Freedom and a democractic society.

Applications of OSPD, in the OSE context - are broad. For us, products include goods such as the 50 machines of the Global Village Construction Set and the relation product ecosystems that arise from the Construction Set Approach. Aalso more broadly, we are interested in much broader 'products' such as infrastructure systems and institutions in society. These include education systems, organizational systems, governance systems, financial systems, industrial systems, peacekeeping systems, the technosphere, etc. The OSE goals are broad - to create new infrastructures for civilization to thrive in peace and liberty.

One of the main motivations is distribution of production - and 10x reduction of waste by 10x increase in product lifetime. That is, not to mention the flexibility and customizability of distributed design. The promise of lifetime design is created by the ability of users to be in full control of product lifetime - via open design, easy repair, and entire local infrastructures for open source product support. Open design and open source microfactories are key to such an infrastructure.

The aim is to produce high quality products at low cost - and to make these products competitive on the open market - by involving sufficient collaboratory effort to make these products better, faster, stronger than proprietary competition. The 2 main keys to access lie in Open Design (zero development costs) and design for fabrication via open source micro factories in a scenario of Flexible Fabrication (reduced production costs).


It is important, however, to understand that Open Source and Collaborative are not the same thing. For instance, Arduino - the most well-known open source product - engages in the development of open source products - but it does not do product R&D through an open source process. At Arduino, company developers develop new wares - there are no breakthrough mechanisms at work where public research results in Public Production Engineering. At OSE, we aim to involve the greater public in the technical development. Effectively, we strive to make the public part of our 'staff' - in our model of distributed enterprise. Because we believe that the post-scarcity, post-Artificial Scarcity economy requires that we produce a productive public. We believe that true work-life integration demands that we unjob, find purpose, help others, and transform the world while we are at it.

2021 Work

OSE's most recent initiative for OSPD is the Extreme Enterprise concept. In 2021, we are still solving for 'people showing up' to do transformative work - which results in significant distribution of livelihoods towards Distributed Market Substitution.

2019 Work and Earlier

OSE has 4 approaches to this: STEM education (being tested), Autonomous Development, Incentive Challenges, and the OSE Development team.

STEAM Education

Open Source Ecology's approach to mass-scale open source product development includes introducing such work into STEM education, where students learn basic science and apply it to real and useful endeavors. Specifically, the reality creation revolves around creating means of right livelihood towards self-determination. This has the potential to transform global manufacturing towards local production and regenerative development.

The concept here is leveraging the 1/2 billion global student population. It takes no additional energy outside of a shift in direction to utilize useful experiments that have a connection to regenerative development. This would be opposite of content that has no relation to the core requirement for a thriving civilization - namely - the elimination of artificial scarcity. The goal is to deliver the promise of science, for the first time in human history - to make lives better for everyone. By exposing children to their agency in creating a better world, we can create a different world for all future generations.

In practice, this would mean a reconnection of curriculum to applied topics that have regenerative development qualities. This could be done by shifting to a modular, building block approach - where simple components are used to build more complex things. There is no reason why simple components - if made accessible and practical - cannot be the foundation of economic significance in a regenerative economy.

Today, complicated and inappropriate design fills the world, and is part of the reason why individuals participate very little with the artifacts around them. A shift to hacking reality must start with young people - to make that a norm in an enlightened society. Such a shift can begin when young people are involved in design of technology. Young people can handle simple devices. And complex spaceships for exploring the universe are not much more than shafts, bearings, levers, materials - and many other primitive elements that can be understood by someone with basic literacy of physics and math. At stake we have numeracy and scientific literacy, while gross absence in the world today makes for a highly manipulable public.

Autonomous Development

Provided a vision towards a common goal, the collaborative literacy to work together, an understanding of a product development process, and the technical ability to use open source collaboration tools - a complex development process could in principle go on automatically as a new norm in society.

Currently, OSE is developing the methodology for such a process. The key ingredients are people - and their training to engage effectively in this process.

Once such a process is well defined, it can be automated in many ways. Ultimately, an artificial intelligence can be created to steward this process in collaboration with human agents.

Thus, a full range of tasks from art, science, writing, computer science, manufacturing, enterprise, and all other sectors can be involved in this process of the incremental development towards an ecosystem of developing and deploying technology for the common good. The first result of this process would be the eradication of artificial scarcity, as this benign AI aims at Distributive, rather than Redistributive, economics.

Incentive Challenges

To date, open source is the industry standard in software. In hardware, the concept of open source hardly exists. And even though the desktop 3D printer industry has been built on open source hardware, hardly anyone noticed.

In order for open hardware to become recognized as the economic juggernaut that it could be - literally - the next economic paradigm with significant potential for eradicating artificial scarcity - clear and undeniable precedents would have to be set. Once these are demonstrated, it is possible that many industry sectors would, one by one, transition to open source development on a timeframe of only 2-5 years.

Why did the 3D printer not already set this precedent? First, we have 200 years of proprietary industry. While software development started open source - by people sharing their code according to the Hacker Ethic developed at MIT - the culture of cooperation is unknown in the last 200 years of hardware industry. It also turns out that many of the early 3D printer hackers were also programmers - so open source warriors filled the ranks of 3D printer development. However, a hiccup occurred in 2013 as MakerBot - the open source poster child of 3D printing - and the largest manufacturer of consumer 3D printers - turned proprietary as it was aquired by Stratasys. This showed Silicon Valley that open hardware does not work, and for this reason, OSE considers the time up to 2013 as The Dark Ages of Open Source Hardware. However, things improved for open hardware since then. Having undergone a betrayal to the community, MakerBot sales plummeted, and other open source contenders took over. Currently, the largest consumer 3D printer manufacturer is Prusa Research, with sales of 8000 printers per month as of early 2018. (Conversation with Josef Prusa). Another open source 3D printer, Lulzbot, was the fastest growing computer company in the USA in 2018 (conversation with Jeff Moe).

Nonetheless, open source hardware effectively doesn't exist as a market force. Open hardware - at about $100M per year total - is a market of 1/10000 of 1% of the overall global economy.

Cordless Drill

OSE aims to demonstrate a clear and visible process whereby an open source product can transform an industry on a 2-5 year time scale. We are considering a cordless drill, a device with approximately a $10B global market. Our concept for deploying this is:

  1. Host an incentive prize for developing a product made with easy to source parts using accessible automated tooling. Development includes open source production engineering and distributed quality control procedures. Further, the product is likely to require an open source Manufacturing Execution System which automates online ordering and sales, along with automated production and part harvest, so that the production side is facilitated significantly. A specific outcome must be a well-defined, specific production engineering that everyone follows to meet quality control standards.
  2. There may be a necessity to sell partial kits, so the customer participates in the lifetime design aspect by being able to replace or rebuild parts. The promise is higher performance and lower lifecycle cost.
  3. Takeback infrastructure exists for lifecycle stewardship at the end of a product's life
  4. Incentive challenge involves people, not only by virtue of incentive prize, but by the realistic possibility of running a sideline business. As such, developers participate in marketing, sales, and further collaborative product development
  5. All information is free, but OSE charges for premium support, training, marketing, distribution. OSE remains true to it's nature as an education action/standards organization. Revenue model must be worked out to ensure continuity of its Incentive Challenge capacity towards an industry transformation.
  6. OSE's assistance is all the training, curriculum, technical support, Enterprise mentorship, and otherwise creation of open, collaborative culture. Supporting hardware and software will include 3D printers, software tool chains, online platforms, collaborative platforms, plastic recycling infrastructure, and other fabrication capacity development.
  7. Initially, OSE develops marketing agreements with big box stores for a guaranteed market. Incentive Challenge participants also develop marketing capacity.
  8. OSE develops sponsorship for this incentive challenge. About $300k appears to be a likely budget.
  9. OSE does quality control and certifies producers
  10. Anyone can do this. To work under the OSE brand, they need to be certified.

It appears that a cordless drill meets many of the criteria for a successful product. See Open Source Industry Transformation Product Criteria.

What It Is Not

In order to understand why open source product development is not the dominant product development method, it is useful to examine existing efforts. Specifically, we do not yet live in a world where repositories of open source design translate to widespread ability of people to build things in distributed, open source microfactories. In order to change this, it is useful to study existing examples of existing elements of open source product development and their limits. Here are some examples of what exists and what is missing. All of the examples do not classify as Distributive Enterprises.

  1. Instructables - great library of designs, but default license is NC and thus not open source. Many of the designs are not rigorously documented - ie, the platform does not include replicable production engineering.
  2. Thingiverse - lots of 3D printable designs, many are open source OSHWA compliant. 3D prints only, and home-scale 3D printing is currently limited to non-warping plastic prints, with little in the way of high temperature plastics such as polycarbonate. The main needs for industrial-grade printing include open source filament makers and industrial-grade heated chambers.
  3. OpenDesk - some designs are open source. Good examples of flat-manufacturing assembled into 3D shapes. Furniture lends itself to 3D printing with larger printers, just as it lends itself to CNC cutting. Closest to Distributive Enterprise - one can sign up to produce the designs in their workshop. Big missing piece is access to low cost, high performance routers suitable for furniture manufacturing.

Open Source Product Development Method - Roadmap

This is a high level description of the overall process that OSE uses:



  • Seminal paper on Open Source Appropriate Technology - Dr. Joshua Pearce - File:Osat.pdf
  • Industry Standards


  • Robust Design - [4]
  • From [5]

OSE Work


Older Publications

Collaboration Platforms

OSE Protocol