18 November 2008

Thingiverse: SourceForge for Objects

I wrote below about the distinction between digital and analogue objects, but that was just a crude statement of the situation, which is in a state of flux. The distinction between digital and analogue is blurring thanks to rapid prototyping machines that can take digital representations of objects and turn them into physical things.

Once that happens, it becomes possible to apply all the usual open source methodology to analogue stuff - sharing designs, improving on them etc. One thing you need to do this is a repository of open designs; enter the wonderfully-named Thingiverse:

Thingiverse is a place for you to share your digital designs with the world. We believe that just as computing shifted away from the mainframe into the personal computer that you use today, digital fabrication will share the same path. Infact, it is already happening: laser cutters, cnc machines, 3D printers, and even automated paper cutters are all getting cheaper by the day. These machines are useful for a huge variety of things, but you need to supply them with a digital design in order to get anything useful out of them. We're hoping that together we can create a community of people who create and share designs freely, so that all can benefit from them.

Creative Commons has some useful further info:

Thingiverse is an “object sharing” site that enables anyone to upload the schematics, designs, and images for their projects. Users can then download and reuse the work in their projects using their own laser cutters, 3D printers, and analog tools. Think of it as a Flickr for the Maker set.

Besides implementing our licenses, Bre and Zach [Thingiverse's creators] have also gone the distance and allowed users to license works under the GNU GPL, LGPL, and BSD licenses, as well as allowing them to release works into the public domain.

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