Free Hardware Design

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Free Hardware Design



Definition by Graham Seaman, advocate of Open Hardware, from an article on the history, present and future of 'free hardware design'. [1]

"Free Design Practice

  • Designs are owned by the people who create them. Ownership is protected by copyright law only. The intention is to make designs as widely available as possible.
  • There is every incentive to build on older designs, to collaborate with as wide a spread of people as possible, and to make the designs widely known. NGOs in developing countries are not locked out, but encouraged to reuse designs.
  • Design software is free software, so that anyone who wishes to can participate.
  • Designs are driven by the wishes of their creators. The end goal can be whatever they wish.
  • Users of the end product can not only know how it works, but are encouraged to create improvements or modify it for their own purposes."



Christoph Beaupoil:

"What makes some blueprints in public domain a Free Hardware project?

1. A community of developers and users

2. Effective medium for information sharing

3. Lowest possible effort to convert the design to useful hardware

4. Low cost of imperfect builds

5. A license granting

        1. Freely available Design
        2. Freedom to modify
        3. Free redistribution"



Terry Hancock on Free Hardware Pioneers:

"One of the most exciting proofs-of-principle was the LART project, which developed an ARM-based single-board computer to be used in multimedia applications. LART was developed by a company that had a need for such a system in one of their projects, and did not want to be dependent on a vendor-supplied board to do the job. By opening the source for the LART, they were able to build a community around the LART design. This also allowed for them to collectively bargain for runs of PCBs, which are much cheaper to manufacture in larger quantity.

Another influential site is Open Cores, which develops “Open Intellectual Property (IP) Cores” for the manufacture of LSI microchips. An “IP Core” of a chip is a collection of design elements which can be combined with other elements in the production of customized integrated circuits. It can be regarded as the hardware source-code for a chip. This really makes sense as a pioneer project, since ICs are among the most ephemeralized hardware technologies we have.

Artemis Society International is a project to design a complete technology chain for establishing a permanent Human presence on the moon, based on the tourist economy. They want to create a small habitat on the moon to be sold as a hotel in a kind of “adventure tourism” package. They are making use of both government-funded development for the International Space Station (and previous projects) and equipment designed and manufactured by independent space companies, like SpaceHab, whose extensible module-system figures prominently in the Artemis design." (

More Information

Free Hardware Design - Past, Present, Future, at

Richard Stallman, on Free Hardware, at

Business Models for Open Source hardware design, at

Some examples of free hardware designs in progress, at