Why NOT Open Source Hardware?

OpenSource Hardware is a trend in recently life or we could say, it is old fashion way. I am glad to find it makes the world better.

But NOW I must talk on a serious topic: Why NOT Open Source Hardware?

Somebody may ask, is VoCore an open source hardware?
Not at all, please give me five minutes to explain.

How to define an open source hardware?
First, let’s check open source software:
They are totally free to use, everybody could modify it, contribute to it, once you have the source code, it is totally under your control.

You might say, I cloned the Arduino from scratch, even from a hand-making PCB, and everything just works well;
Ye, you are right, you made one open source hardware. But I have to say, Arduino is very simple that is why you can make it.

Here is a true story.

A student from India contact me, he want to make some copys to lower the cost, I think it is a good start of the open source hardware, so I spend a lot of time and tried my best to help him but fail at final…After a lot of work, he finally make some copy, but its cost is 3 times than current VoCore2… Of course for fun it worth. 🙂 And I recognize VoCore2 should not be open source:

1. PCB quality is important, for example, at solder layer it even covers the metal pad, it should be NG in most factory but cheap PCB provider do not care that. It will increase cost for the low yield rate.
2. The impedance matching, cheap PCB provider do not have that. That will effect RF, USB and DDR, sometimes it will slow down data transfer speed, sometimes it can not work at all.
3. SMT quality, cheap factory uses cheap machine, increase cost because low yield rate.
4. Low quality chips. Some chips are incredible low price, the small batch even lower than mass order especially on alibaba & 1688 & taobao), the recycle ones normally are from junks, the chips’ pads are oxidized, maybe pass test in factory but once you use it with heavy load, the heat will broke them. For my production, must and only use new chips(out of chip factory < six months with vacuum packaging) from the top provider or directly from its maker.

PS: that’s why a lot of cheap production from ShenZhen only have a short life. That is very very bad and dishonest.

And many many details are not in books and hard to show in blog, they are the experience of an engineer.

That is still NOT the end…opensource hardware do not include:

  • get contact with good providers(digikey and mouser do not have everything)
  • a test application to test the production
  • a test jig to test the production
  • calibrate the RF, need special device and application
  • Not Good production, need to repair.

PS: every steps cost a lot of time + money.

That’s Why NOT Open Source Hardware:

A REAL COMPLEX hardware can not be simply open source as software, it is an art of production,  need time to try, to make mistake, need a lot of sweat and not a simple copy&paste.

I just want to public SCH and PCB could help people understand how it works, makes it easy to develop daughter board base on it, but not suggest directly copy from it.

ONE THING FOR SURE: VoCore and VoCore2 are ALWAYS OPEN, but never an open source hardware.

8 thoughts on “Why NOT Open Source Hardware?

  1. pepe2k

    > A REAL COMPLEX hardware can not be simply opened as software, it is an art of production, need time to try, to make mistake, need sweat but worth it.

    Nope, I totally disagree. And as an example, look at Turris: https://www.turris.cz/en/hardware-documentation

    If it’s not enough complex for you, then wait for Omnia (second version), it will be OSH too.

    1. vonger Post author

      It is not a complex board…
      Please understand “complex board”, in Chinese, I should say “射频级别的电路板”. My define of “complex” is the speed > 2GHz board. Most chip(Intel) can reach 3.0GHz but it is the speed inside chip, their outside real bus speed is 1033MHz only. So even most notebook boards are not “complex” at all.

    1. vonger Post author

      Your comment has link, just checked, that can not pass the junk checker.

  2. Zangetsu

    “Made in China” but “Made by Dishonest”

    If only that was a bumper sticker! 🙂

  3. Woody14619

    To be clear: OpenSource (at least in the US) doesn’t imply you can do the same thing for the same cost. It means only that if you have the resources and/or the time, you can reproduce it, or modify in a way you like without a company coming after you in the courts saying “that is mine!”

    For example, if I really wanted a special feature(like RFID) I could take the board schematic you have, add the chip and circuit I wanted, and then find the proper way to fabricate that for my own use. I would also have to update the kernel with support, and the user software to handle it, and the web interface to use it with authentication if desired (which I can, thanks to OpenSource). I could then put all that back out for anyone else who wants it. Will it still cost $20? Probably not. If I made it maybe it costs $80. But I can have it without having to re-do everything, and without worry of someone claiming I stole ideas from them.

    That is what OpenSource and OpenHardware is: So user can make changes and update to their needs without worries of lawsuits. No guarantees that the end result will be as stable or have the same costs. So your board *IS* OpenHardware, and you should take great pride in providing that for the next generation. What you do helps new people understand how circuits work, and see how things can be.

    1. vonger Post author

      Ye, you are right, share is always my target. 🙂
      The story is so many beginners asked me why their clone can not work, they said and also show me “OpenHardware Law”, if I mark VoCore as OpenHardware, I must help them make it work…I am crashed, want to save sometime with my family so have to “remove” OpenHardware. 😀 At least my ear is clean for a while.

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