Open Source Hardware : A case study of userdeveloped derivatives

University essay from KTH/Entreprenörskap och Innovation; KTH/Entreprenörskap och Innovation


Open Source Hardware (OSHW) is a concept where hardware designs are shared for everyone to use, modify and build upon. This have become a widespread phenomenon in the microcontroller industry and created an ecosystem where users and companies produce various “derivatives” or alternative designs based on existing OSHW.

This research explores this phenomenon of derivative development between users and producers and how this affects innovation, by exploring three case studies of user developed derivatives and interviews with producers and various people with OSHW background. This thesis found that this ecosystem to be dependent on Open Source and leverages the interest of users motivation to innovate and producer support. Furthermore, eight different factor were discovered that derivative development affecting innovation. (1) Openness & Transparency allows the user to innovate without fearing consequences of IP infringement and establishing trust. The transparency also increases the chances for the users to become innovators, as it facilitates the understanding of products, through the documentations and information sharing. (2) Support from producers facilitates users’ ability to design and innovate and was found crucial for the emergence of derivative designs. (3) Amplified Motivation through personal interest has a high impact in the innovation of open microcontrollers. (4) Market diffusion through low-cost ways of sharing and diffusing designs. (5) Market expansion increasing the number of derivative development can affect the resources used by producers in their development process. (6) Product improvements are affected, because of the vast feedback provided by the community, which can lead to through the discovery of usage in fields, product functionality. This increases the quality of the product and allows OSHW producers to stay competitive. (7) Collaboration can affect innovation by the collaborations with derivative projects and businesses. (8) Brand and Marketing is affecting by the number of users that use producers’ products for user-innovators development of derivative designs.


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