Structuring open hardware projects

experiences from the “i3 Berlin” 3D printer project with Blender and Github

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Every successful open hardware project needs a solid organization structure at some point in time, especially when plan to produce and sell your project. In our “i3 Berlin” 3d printer project, we took some elements of the PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) concept and implemented it with open source tools like Github and Blender.

<h3> Common project structure used in the product industry </h3>

<p> The concept of Product Lifecycle Management is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from its conception, through design and manufacture, to service and disposal. PLM is about how to handle versions, communication with users, etc. Every PLM has to be tailor made to the project and the team working on it. PLM is vital to organize open hardware projects to be more focused and efficient, yet being open and adaptive at the same time. Building a PLM is time demanding but will make your projects more and more efficient. </p>

<h3> Our experiences so far </h3>

<p> Our project is the i3 Berlin 3D printer, a remix of the Prusa i3.
- It is an electromechanical project that is mainly built from printed parts and standardized sourced parts.
- We don´t develop electronics, but we do design mechanical parts and make adjustments to the firmware.
- We also sell our design as a kit, which need a manual and a bill of materials that is always up to date. - Furthermore we have to track issues and we want to be open for cooperation by other people. </p>

<p> We used Blender to design the entire machine.
- Blender is a 3D mesh modeler, where the industry uses solely parametric CAD software when it comes to electromechanical engineering.
- Parametric 3D models are smart, where mesh models are stupid models you modify with smart tools.
- Mesh modeling is a very suitable method, when 3D printing is the main manufacturing method. Design files are much easier to share among people and programs.
- Cables are an intricate part of a moving machine which can be modeled well within Blender.
- We wrote a plug in to generate a bill of material and developed a method to make a step by step visual manual with animation frames. Both BOM and manual are a part of the design file and therefore these will always be up to date. The rendered pictures from Blenders </p>

<p> For communication we use Github.
- The core ideas and design requirements grow over time in the wiki.
- The submit structure of Github automatically takes care for a version control.
- Git issues work as a support ticket system to track and solve problems.
- Design guidelines make sure that everyone cooperating organizes their work coherently with the project. </p>

<h3> Future plans </h3>

<p> - make Blender more accessible by making tutorials directly focused on mechanical design.
- connect the BOM with a database for logistics and price calculations and demand estimation,
supply chain
- continue work on OHM (open hardware management) toolbox </p>

Talk ID
Saal 6
1 p.m.
Hardware & Making
Type of
Bram de Vries
Morris Winkler
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