Open source hardware

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Logo for "Open Source Hardware" of the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA)
The RepRap all-purpose 3D printer with the ability to make copies of its own structural parts (" self-replicating ")
The Arduino Diecimila, open physical computing platform

Open source hardware or Open Hardware , and free hardware ( english Free Hardware ) is a hardware after free building plans is made. The movement and idea is close to the free software , open source and DIY movements or goes back to them.

Concept and field of activity

Even if "open source hardware" is often a lot with open source - software has in common, can "open hardware" but also a far cry from software engineering to take place: for example, tried the "Open Source Car" (Project OScar ) free building plans for a car to develop, a freely available “recipe” to build yourself . Even further with Thingiverse , here objects are to be made available as 3D printable CAD files. The "Solar" project tries in developing countries affordable DIY - Solar systems to spread, even to cooking and heating without firewood permit.

The projects Libreboot (in contrast to coreboot no longer contains any proprietary components) and coreboot (formerly LinuxBIOS) with the aim of replacing proprietary BIOSes are sometimes also assigned to the free hardware , since the BIOS was assigned to the hardware from a historical perspective. While in the early days of the computer the BIOS was completely stored in an OTP - ROM and thus inseparably anchored in the hardware, it is now completely interchangeable , analogous to any other software .

The non-profit project 100-Dollar-Laptop wants to equip all of its computers with coreboot as one of the first computers in series production . With a planned production volume of 100 to 200 million pieces, the BIOS should find widespread use, especially in developing and emerging countries , and thus make a contribution to development aid. On 14 February 2006 the company Sun Microsystems , surprisingly, the design of their known SPARC processor architecture under the name OpenSPARC fully disclosed and under the free software license GNU General Public License made to the general public. Under the name “Open Compute Project”, Facebook has released both the architecture of its servers and a data center.

In the field of textile processing the AYAB project comes ( "All yarns are beautiful" , English for "All yarns are beautiful" ) that the common knitting machines Brother KH-9xx with a modern and open Arduino provides -based control.

history logo (2013)
OSHWA logo

The first hardware-oriented " Open Source " activities were started in 1997 by Bruce Perens , the author of the Open Source Definition , co-founder of the Open Source Initiative and radio amateur . He started the Open Hardware Certification Program with the aim of enabling hardware manufacturers to self-certify their products as "open". Shortly after the start of Perens' program, David Freeman started the Open Hardware Specification Project (OHSpec) as a further attempt to establish a free computing platform as an alternative to proprietary platforms. In 1999 three other enthusiasts tried to transfer the open source philosophy to machine design , founded the Open Design Foundation (ODF) as a non-profit organization and developed the " Open Design " definition. However, after a while these activities all fizzled out.

However, in the mid-2000s, open source hardware was revived with the emergence of some high profile and successful projects and companies such as OpenCores (known for OpenRISC ), RepRap (3D printer), Arduino , Adafruit and SparkFun. In response, Perens reactivated his website in 2007.

The Open Graphics Project , an attempt to develop a free and open 3D graphics chip and a 3D reference card , led to the establishment of the Open Hardware Foundation (OHF) in 2007 .

The Tucson Amateur Packet Radio Corporation (TAPR), an amateur radio organization founded in 1982 to promote the advancement of digital amateur radio technology, created the first open hardware license, the TAPR Open Hardware License , in 2007 . The OSI with Eric S. Raymond raised concerns about the new license and decided not to review it.

In 2010 in the context of the Freedom Defined project , the Open Hardware Definition was created as a collaborative work of many, and achieved broad acceptance by dozens of organizations and companies (as of 2016).

In July 2011 the CERN ( European Organization for Nuclear Research ) published its own open source hardware license, the CERN Open Hardware License . Javier Serrano, an engineer at CERN's Beams Department and founder of the Open Hardware Repository , said: “By sharing designs openly, CERN expects to improve the quality of designs through peer review and to guarantee their users - including commercial companies - the freedom to study, modify and manufacture them, leading to better hardware and less duplication of efforts " . Although originally developed to meet CERN-specific requirements, such as tracking the impact of CERN's research, it can now be used well by anyone with any open source hardware in its multiple adapted form.

At the Open Hardware Summit 2011 there were heated discussions about licenses and what constitutes Open Source Hardware, as a result Bruce Perens broke away from previous joint efforts and results such as the OSHW definition. Bruce Perens reactivated with an organization of the same name which represents "Open Hardware" , despite the content of the Open Source Hardware Definition, based on the Open Source Definition and the "Four Freedoms" of the Free Software Foundation . However, Perens has not been online since 2014 and the organization seems to have stopped all activities.

The Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) on represents "Open Source Hardware" , acts as a center for open source hardware activities of all kinds and genres and cooperates intensively with entities such as TAPR, CERN and OSI. OSHWA was established as an organization in Delaware, USA in June 2012 and became a non-profit organization in July 2013. After quarrels about trademark overlaps between OSHWA and OSI, both organizations signed a coexistence agreement in 2012.

In 2012, after years of skeptical distance from the idea of ​​the relevance of free hardware designs , the Free Software Foundation began a “Respects Your Freedom” certification program (RYF). It is intended to encourage the development and proliferation of free hardware that should pay attention to the rights and privacy of the end user. The campaign has had limited success with six devices so far, and the campaign has also been criticized for mixing political activity with a hardware certificate; For the certificate, the FSF demands the acceptance and use of the FSF terminology, which is controversial in the FOSS environment. In 2016 the FSF Replicant project also proposed a “free hardware” definition (instead of the OSHWA “Open Source Hardware” definition), derived from the “Four Freedoms” of the FSF.

In the course of the COVID-19 pandemic , several projects for the production of simple ventilators have been underway since spring 2020 .

Legal basis

Since hardware, unlike software, is often not subject to copyright , open source hardware licenses are more focused on patent law as the mechanism of action, unlike FOSS licenses, which are based on copyright.

Free hardware can be released to different degrees depending on the project. Many manufacturers often only pass on parts of their implementations for users' own projects. For example, only the firmware was wireless router WRT54G from Linksys (forced) under GPL provided; the robotic vacuum cleaner Roomba only the programming was published.

In addition, independent parts of a project can be subject to different licenses. This means that interfaces , software and hardware can have different licenses.

Open hardware licenses

Known and currently used open source hardware licenses are:

  • The "TAPR Open Hardware License": written by attorney John Ackermann and OSS greats Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond , approved after discussions with hundreds from the community
  • "Balloon Open Hardware License": written and used by the "Balloon Project"
  • although originally its own license, OpenCores now uses the LGPL
  • Hardware Design Public License: written by Graham Seaman, administrator of
  • CERN CERN Open Hardware License (OHL CERN) originally designed for use with the Open Hardware Repository
  • Solderpad License, a variant of the Apache License version 2.0, extended by lawyer Andrew Katz to be more suitable for hardware.
  • Chumby SDK and HDK license.
  • BSD license , MIT license , and other permissive FOSS licenses.

The Open Source Hardware Association recommends seven licenses that are compatible with the Open Source Hardware Definition . Of the general copyleft licenses the GNU General Public License (GPL) and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike , of the hardware-specific copyleft licenses the CERN Open Hardware License (CERN OHL) and TAPR Open Hardware License (TAPR OHL) and of the General permissive licenses the Free BSD license , the MIT license and the Creative Commons Attribution license. In 2012, recommended the TAPR Open Hardware License, the Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0, and the GPL 3.0 license.

Richard Stallman ( GNU and FSF ) recommends different licenses for free hardware for different use cases. For general building plans the GNU GPL v3 (or later), the Apache license v2.0 and the CC-0 (a license similar to public domain ). For functional 3D construction plans, the GNU GPL v3 (or later), the Apache license v2.0 and the licenses CC-BY-SA, CC-BY or CC-0 . For decorative designs the GNU GPL v3 (or later), the Apache license v2.0, the CC-0 or any other Creative Commons license (including the proprietary).


DIN SPEC 3105 is intended to serve as a manual and industrial development standard for open source hardware in the future . The two-part specification , published on June 18, 2020, is the first DIN core publication under a Creative Commons license.

See also

Web links

Commons : Free hardware  collection of pictures, videos and audio files
  • OHO is a search engine for Open Source Hardware and Do It Yourself projects that was developed by the Technical University of Berlin and the non-profit association Open Source Ecology Germany eV with the support of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Richard M. Stallman: Free Hardware and Free Hardware Designs . July 20, 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  2. Free Software Foundation : "Campaign for Free BIOS" (English)
  3. Open Compute Project , accessed on July 22, 2011
  4. Andrea Diener: Chaos Communication Congress hobbyists, construction workers, life hackers . . December 28, 2013. Accessed July 9, 2015: “ Not only telephone connections and computers are hacked, but knitting computers and plants as well. A culture of self-discovery is presented at the Chaos Communication Congress. Finds are willingly shared with everyone. "
  6. Free software and fashion tech by Nathan Willis on (May 13, 2015)
  7. Towards Open Textile and Garment Production Libre Graphics Meeting 2015, Toronto , April 29 (English)
  8. Perens, B. 1997. annoucing: The Open Hardware Certification Program. Debian Announce List
  9. The Open Hardware Certification Program ( Memento from December 12, 1998 in the Internet Archive ) on (November 1998)
  10. Freeman, D. 1998. OHSpec: The Open Hardware Specification Project. ( Memento from February 20, 1999 in the Internet Archive )
  11. McNamara, P. 2007a. Open hardware. The Open Source Business Resource (September 2007: Defining Open Source). - ( Memento of the original from January 6, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  12. ^ Ars Technica: TAPR introduces open-source hardware license, OSI skeptical .
  13. ^ Freedom Defined. 2011. Open Source Hardware Definition. Freedom Defined
  14. OSHW on (accessed 2016)
  15. CERN. 2011. CERN launches Open Hardware initiative. ( Memento from July 1, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  16. Ayass, M. 2011. CERN's Open Hardware License. - ( Memento of the original from December 6, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  17. Bruce Perens, 2011a. Promoting open hardware. .
  18. Bruce Perens. 2011b. Open Hardware - Constitution. Open hardware. ( Memento from November 22, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  19. You've reached a web site owned by Perens LLC ( Memento of February 17, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) on
  20. brief-history-of-open-source-hardware-organizations-and-definitions on
  21. An Important Question on the Open Source Hardware Mark on (August 2012)
  22. co-existence on (October 2012)
  23. ^ Richard Stallman in Free Hardware on "I see no social imperative for free hardware designs like the imperative for free software." (June 22, 1999)
  24. ^ Respects Your Freedom hardware product certification . In: .
  25. The Free Software Foundation loves this laptop, but you won't on PC World by Chris Hoffman (Feb 5, 2015)
  26. Criteria on "The seller must use FSF approved terminology for the FSF's activities and work, in all statements and publications Relating to the product. This includes product packaging, and manuals, web pages, marketing materials, and interviews about the product. Specifically, the seller must use the term 'GNU / Linux' for any reference to an entire operating system which includes GNU and Linux, not 'Linux' or 'Linux-based system' or 'a system with the Linux kernel' or any other term that mentions 'Linux' without 'GNU'. Likewise, the seller must talk about 'free software' more prominently than 'open source.' ”
  27. lets_talk_about_respect_your_freedoms_more on
  28. ^ Replicant - Freedom and privacy / security issues [online]. (2016). Available from: < >. (Accessed 02/22/2016) "The freedom to use the hardware, for any purpose. The freedom to study how the hardware works, and change it so it works as you wish. Access to the hardware design source is a precondition for this. The freedom to redistribute copies of the hardware and its design so you can help your neighbor. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the hardware design source is a precondition for this " .
  29. List of various projects for the manufacture of a ventilator. Website of the Open Source Ventilator initiative. Accessed March 29
  30. transcript of all comments ( Memento of May 18, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), on
  31. CERN Open Hardware License ( enarchivebot = ) In: Open Hardware Repository . CERN. July 5, 2012. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  32. Open Hardware Repository . Retrieved April 16, 2015.
  33. Solderpad licenses . Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  34. Definition on
  35. FAQ on “What license should I use? In general, there are two broad classes of open-source licenses: copyleft and permissive. Copyleft licenses (also referred to as “share-alike” or “viral”) are those which require derivative works to be released under the same license as the original; common copyleft licenses include the GNU General Public License (GPL) and the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. Other copyleft licenses have been specifically designed for hardware; they include the CERN Open Hardware License (OHL) and the TAPR Open Hardware License (OHL). Permissive licenses are those which allow for proprietary (closed) derivatives; they include the FreeBSD license, the MIT license, and the Creative Commons Attribution license. Licenses that prevent commercial use are not compatible with open-source; see this question for more. "
  36. ( Memento from March 28, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  37. Business plan. DIN SPEC 3105. Open source hardware. In: German Institute for Standardization DIN. March 2019, accessed January 12, 2020 .
  38. Business plan. DIN SPEC 3105-1. Open source hardware. In: German Institute for Standardization DIN. December 2019, accessed January 12, 2020 .
  39. Martin Häuer: Open Source Hardware in industry. Meet DIN SPEC 3105. In: Chaos Computer Club eV, December 29, 2019, accessed on January 12, 2020 (English, German).
  40. German Institute for Standardization DIN (Ed.): DIN SPEC 3105-1: 2020-07. Open Source Hardware - Part 1: Requirements for the technical documentation; Text in English . Beuth-Verlag, Berlin July 2020, doi : 10.31030 / 3173063 .
  41. German Institute for Standardization DIN (Ed.): DIN SPEC 3105-2: 2020-07. Open Source Hardware - Part 2: Community-Based Assessment; Text in English . Beuth-Verlag, Berlin July 2020, doi : 10.31030 / 3173062 .