Open-Source Hardware

On CircuitousRoot

image link-topic-sf0.jpg

1. Introduction

Various Free and Open Source Hardware projects are scattered throughout CircuitousRoot. This is an index of them, together with an explanation of the details of their licensing and use.


2. Project List

General Documentation:

For an explanation of the part symbols used in these project names, see document 0ZZ6 "The CircuitousRoot Part Symboling System." For a list of series and machine codes (e.g., ZZ, TF, HM, etc.) see document 0ZZ7 "CircuitousRoot Series and Machine Code List." Both are in the CR OSHW General Documentation.

The documentation for each specific project is kept with the project itself. The general documentation relevent to all projects is here:

Linotype/Intertype Composition Linecasting:

Monotype Composition Typecasting:

Type Making:

(Punch, patrix, and matrix making. Casting individual types for hand setting.)

Workshop Equipment:

3. Licensing Terms and Notes about Using

Scope: I have the privilege of hosting on CircuitousRoot some open hardware projects by others. These are in each case licensed under their own terms. The notes here apply only to those open source hardware projects which I have either originated (e.g. the MBA Matrix Box) or did not originate but now own (e.g., CPTops).

I intend all of my open source hardware projects to be compliant with the definition published by the Open Source Hardware Association at:

The licensing terms and methods for open source hardware are still in flux, and at present it isn't yet certain if the two most popular open source hardware licenses (TAPR, CERN) will work. More problematically, their use conflicts with the use of Creative Commons (CC) licensing for the all-important documentation of a project (and the CC licensing is on solid legal ground). So here I'll adopt a simplified approach.

Any part of these open source hardware projects which is subject to copyright (documentation, drawings, CAD models, images, program code, etc.) is either public domain (if so specified), licensed under a Creative Commons (CC) license (specified for each item), or licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) or Lesser GPL (LGPL) (again, specified for each item). Typically I'll use the most recent version of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license for original non-code items.

(Note: Some of the projects contain work developed in the "cloud-only" Onshape commercial CAD environment. While it is not possible to download these models into actual files in computing environments you own, they are still documents which are recorded somewhere and thus in copyright for the duration of their term of copyright under current US law. They are licensed as noted above.)

With regard to potential Intellectual Property (IP) rights beyond those addressed in the licensing of the documentation for these open source hardware projects, to whatever extent these projects contain potentially novel intellectual property which might be protectable by me (other than my own trademarks, to which I retain the rights), I explicitly place this intellectual property in the public domain.

Although to the best of my knowledge none of the projects here infringe upon anyone else's IP rights, I cannot guarantee this. Nobody can. We live in an age where patenting the obvious is increasingly common. Should you choose to make any of these open source hardware projects, you assume full responsibility with regard to the IP rights, if any, of other parties.

Note on trademarks: CircuitousRoot is a registered trademark used by me to identify this website and new material presented on it. If you build or redistribute any of these projects, you may used "CircuitousRoot" only to indicate where you got the project. If you make and/or distribute your own version, use your own mark. You are specifically prohibited from using CircuitousRoot in any way that might create confusion as to who made your modified version or might suggest an endorsement of your modified version.

These terms allow you to build these projects and to distribute and/or sell them for profit (if you wish), and to make and distribute/sell modified versions, so long as you adhere to the licensing terms of the documentation.

Analysis: When the documentation or program code license is or includes a CC "ShareAlike" license or the GPL/LGPL, then this method is "pure copyleft" for the documentation or program code, but not necessarily for all cases of building the hardware. It would be possible for you to modify the hardware and restrict your modified version by asserting IP rights for the modifications. Note that you would have to create your own original, separate documentation for these modifications (and that you'd have to re-make any CAD models from scratch). Note also that in doing this you would mark yourself in public as a schmuck.

4. Using "Onshape" CAD

Some of these projects are developed within the "Onshape" commercial CAD system ( This system is "cloud-based" (that is, it runs remotely out of datacenters in pre-cloud-hype terminology) and does not have a file format that can be saved to personally owned media. However, it does have a free-of-charge access mode where, after registration, you can access (and copy to your own working space) the original CAD source. All Onshape CAD models for my open source hardware projects have been released as "public" models on Onshape.

Note that at present Onshape has no mechanism for allowing me to specify the licensing terms of CAD "Documents" (as they call them) on their system. However, it is my intention that all Onshape CAD "Documents" made public by me on Onshape in support of specific Open Source Hardware projects on CircuitousRoot be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

To use an Onshape original CAD "Document", first set up a free (or paid, if you wish) account with Onshape. Then search the Onshape public models for the first part of the project name (but omit any punctuation). Thus for the project "MBA - Matrix Box A, Mono Composition 15x15" search the Onshape public models for "MBA Matrix Box A". It should show up. Copy the public model to your own Onshape workspace to use it.

Because of the obvious issues involved in this, I will also, insofar as it is possible, publish versions of these same CAD models and drawings on the CircuitousRoot website in forms which can be captured in files (e.g., STL). Unfortunately, at this time there is no universal, workable, open CAD file format which captures full internal structure and revision history. (FreeCAD doesn't work, DWG isn't open, and IGES & STEP don't capture full internals.)

5. Why Not the OSHWA Logo?

The Open Source Hardware Association endorses a logo for hardware compliant with their Open Source Hardware Definition. I hope that my open source hardware is so compliant, but I choose not to use their logo. Why?

Because it triggers a pet peeve of mine, one which long antedates the idea of open source hardware (it was something I started noticing in the 1980s, though I'm sure it is much older than that). It has to do with the deliberately self-inflicted inability of people in the arts and humanities to understand technology. To someone such as myself, who used to be in the humanities but who has made the effort to understand technology, this logo is an affront. It undermines the very technological revolution it attempts to endorse.

First, let us be clear that the open source hardware culture is a makers' culture. In older terms, it is a tinkerers' culture - hands-on, people-in-sheds, the province of mechanick exercises. As Wallace Stevens said, "not ideas about the thing but the thing itself." It is a world in which it is important that things actually work.

Here is the OSHWA's Open Source Hardware Logo:

[click image to view larger]

image link-to-oshw-logo-sf0.jpg

Clearly it is supposed to be a gear (representing technology) which is "open" (more precisely, it is supposed to be a sector, not a complete circular gear). At this theoretical level, it's a fine concept for a logo. But what is it, in literal form? It is a picture of a gear which won't work.

No real gear looks like this. It's barely a sprocket. Even the ancients made better gears for the Antikythera Mechanism. Yet, time and again, this is the "gear" you get when you ask an artist to draw a gear. I saw this in public art 30 years ago, and it bugged me then. There is no excuse for this kind of thing if in fact you are serious about your field of endeavor. If your field is the graphic arts, you should be serious enough about it to understand the things you purport to represent. It isn't enough to claim that this "gear" is simplified for graphic purposes. Simplification does not accomodate the changing of basic principles. As Einstein said, things should be as simple as possible, but not simpler. A "gear" which has been simplified beyond the point of functionality won't do.

It's a good concept, though. So here is a logo which implements the same concept with a workable gear:

[click image to view larger]

image link-to-logo-01-sf0.jpg

Here it is in several formats:

It's a 14-tooth (before cutting), 20 degree pressure angle involute spur sector. I generated it using Dr. Rainer Hessmer's online Involute Spur Gear Builder. A working gear could be manufactured from the DXF output of this source. I modified this DXF using LibreCAD (because it has real constraint-based drawing tools, whereas Inkscape does not) and converted it to SVG. The final tweaking was done with Inkscape (which handles filling and lettering better). The lettering is Linux Libertine, Bold. (All-lowercase sans serif logos have gone out of fashion so many times it's tiresome; if I had a decent digital lettering font of Caslon I'd have used it.) I doubt if you would wish to use this logo, but if you do, go ahead. It's public domain (there isn't enough originality in the implementation to claim copyright, in my opinion).

Think of it as an Open Source Hardware logo for real gearheads.

Truth in Advertising:

My late wife, Rollande Krandall, was a Steampunk jeweler ( Singing Lemur Jewelry, We have a lovely poster done for us by the talented artist Meredith Dillman. It features, of course, a gear-like object in the background. But note that Meredith has done a passable sprocket rather than a dysfunctional pseudo-gear.

image link-to-steampunk-lemur-sf0.jpg

(This artwork is Copyright by Meredith Dillman and used here by permission of the copyright owner, Singing Lemur Jewelry LLC. If you want something like it, pay Meredith to draw it for you, just as we did.)