In factories and industrial estates around the world, extraordinary efforts are being made to ensure that hospitals have ventilators, and logistics firms have freezers and refrigerators. Behind the scenes, this construction campaign is taking place on an epic, unprecedented scale. In some places, it is also frighteningly inefficient.
That inefficiency can only be expected. Had to manufacture responsibly in such a short time Always dirty. But many of the hardware hold-ups we’ve seen – from production line bottlenecks to part constraints – can be avoided in the future by implementing an “open source” ethos to produce the world’s hardware.
Open source design is a form of collective intelligence, where experts work to create a design that anyone has the legal right to create. The software industry has long shown that “open” collaboration is not only possible but also profitable. Is open source software Ubiquitous, And the servers that power the Internet themselves run largely on open technology, Designed collaboratively by competing companies.
At the onset of the epidemic, and during the recognition of the global emergency, dozens of large companies in the world had not actually “signed”Open COVID pledge, “Promised to share its intellectual property to help fight the virus. On a smaller scale, More than 100 project teams Set to create and share “open” ventilator designs, which can be produced locally, indicating the pressing need for ventilators around the world.
Unfortunately, none of these initiatives succeeded in making ventilators at the required rate in hospitals In the early weeks of the epidemic. After examining current efforts to share the intellectual property of machines, our recent paper concludes that projects should be Open from scratch For the success of open hardware. Everything from the first doodle to detailed calculations on the napkin that verifies safety should be available if other experts and manufacturers are going to participate in the design.
Hardware opening path
Production of hardware through open collaboration can be challenging. Unlike the entire virtual collaboration required for software development, hardware development requires physical parts – raw materials and machinery. It needs testing facilities and engineers to perform stress tests and safety checks.
There are promising signs that these challenges can be met. The RepRap 3D Printer The project has brought low-cost 3D printing to a wider audience, making affordable prototyping possible over a distance. Meanwhile de Cern White Rabbit Project This has shown that complex electronics that control the Large Hadron Collider can also be developed as open source hardware. but, We need better to be efficient Workflows For cooperation – Systems to help organize the distribution of tasks and responsibilities on collaborative hardware projects.
The journey from prototype to production is much harder, and no less exciting than the technical challenge of prototyping a device. Manufacturers must comply with international standards Ensure quality And Manage risk Relates to their products. This is particularly true of medical hardware, upon which life depends. A key challenge for open hardware would be to get this certification the way private companies do today.
Under current regulations, no matter how efficacious and safe, ventilators manufactured in volunteer manufacturer locations may not be certified for medical use. But for devices that are less strictly regulated, Like face shield, Open hardware is currently being used successfully.
Achieving similar successes with high-tech medical devices will require organizations that are built to build from open designs – dynamic factories, for example, that will be responsible for global emergencies. These organizations take time to establish. But we cannot wait for the next emergency: we should start making them from today in preparation for the next pandemic.
Of course, finding sustainable business models Open hardware poses a challenge: Can a system be created that share intellectual property for free while helping designers and manufacturers benefit? In one sense, open hardware has an advantage here: people are used to buying products, where online consumers are accustomed to using the software for free.
Nevertheless, it is likely that public money will be required to establish an open hardware manufacturing ecosystem, or investor money to buy into non-traditional business models. It will follow the trajectory of the Internet, which started life Funded by public institutions And is now home to the world’s largest private enterprises.
We have experimented with our own open hardware project to help us understand what the future of collaborative hardware might be. Our Openflexure microscope Designed to be manufactured at low cost in Sub-Saharan Africa Used to diagnose malaria. We have probably spent more time designing processes that help us share our knowledge more effectively than microscopic designing.
In the short term, it slows down our progress. In the long term, we hope that manufacturers anywhere in the world will be able to understand our design and adapt it to their local context. As these processes become more standardized, design sharing for production will become easier. The final and most ambitious phase of our project will be working with manufacturers to produce certified microscopes for medical use – a major step towards open source medical hardware that will require us to better fight future epidemics .
Humanity already knew how to make ventilators decades before this epidemic. What was lacking was access to this knowledge, the skill of working together to adopt a design, and rapidly increasing logistics to build complex machinery. It will take years to address these issues. Starting that process today will help us deal with future global emergencies more dynamically and efficiently.
By this article Richard Bowman, Royal Society University Research Fellow and Proleptic Reader, Department of Physics, University of Bath And Julian sterling, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Physics, University of Bath Republished from chit chat Under a Creative Commons license. read the Original article.