What Are the Different Types of Open Source Hardware?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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There are actually quite a few different types of open source hardware, usually based on specific open source applications and projects or on work that others are willing to share. One of the most common types of hardware that has been developed as open source is a system for creating electronic devices and hardware known as “Arduino.” There is also a platform of open source hardware devices and modules that can be used together and altered that are referred to as “BUGS.” Some open source devices and hardware have also been created by amateur and professional electricians and engineers and shared under an open source license.

Open source hardware, much like open source software, is developed in a way that is open for others to use and understand. This hardware is typically created under a license that forgoes patent protection for such devices, and others can use them or create similar devices using publicly available schematics and plans. The open source hardware community has developed as a way for designers, electricians, and engineers to create new devices and share their work together for others to contribute to and enjoy.


One of the most popular types of open source hardware is a platform for electrical engineering that is referred to as “Arduino.” The Arduino series of products include pre-constructed circuit boards, as well as individual components and schematics that can be used to assemble circuit boards. These devices are all provided at minimal charge so that others can use them to create more elaborate and complicated electrical devices. While these are not free, like much open source software is, they do provide a way for people to work on electrical systems while sharing ideas and seeing how others have solved certain problems.

There are also open source hardware systems that are more modular in design; one system in particular is referred to as “BUGS.” BUGS have been developed by Bug Labs and include a number of different devices that can be programmed and used together. Theses BUGS can interface with each other and include a primary module that can then be connected to other devices such as touch screens and cameras. Users can create programming for these modules to create a variety of devices and types of hardware.

Some open source hardware simply consists of any type of device or electronics created by people willing to share their work with others. Rather than protecting their inventions with patents, such devices are shared visually through schematics and pictures that allow others to recreate them. This allows an open source hardware community to thrive as different developers and inventors share their work and help each other overcome obstacles or problems together.


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