Technology Transfer (…) is the process of transferring skills, knowledge, technologies, methods of manufacturing, samples of manufacturing and facilities (…) to ensure that scientific and technological developments are accessible to a wider range of users who can then further develop and exploit the technology into new products, processes, applications, materials or services. — Wikipedia
One of the greatest promises of open source hardware (OSHW) is in allowing local production of goods when and where they are needed. The open source approach is already having an impact in several areas of manufacturing and encouraging local and distributed production. Everywhere Tech seeks to further this practice across all areas of the productive economy, with a special focus on those with the most pressing needs:
Several obstacles stand between open source solutions and the communities who need them the most: they don’t know that these solutions exist, they may not understand the language the plans are described in, they may not have the appropriate hardware/software to download and read the plans, they may not have the tools and materials nor the skills to build the devices.
The Everywhere Tech project seeks to address these challenges by facilitating open source technology transfer, with a focus on sharing plans and knowledge instead of delivering fully assembled devices/goods. If the knowledge and skills needed to build devices reside within the communities that use them this will ensure: replicability of the devices, longer lasting devices which can be locally repaired, solutions better adapted to available materials and uses.
In order to develop a protocol for open source technology transfer, we began by identifying the components required for efficient and effective replication of open source hardware, namely: designs, production capabilities, knowledge & skills, development & support.
While open source designs are now available for a wide array of devices — and, in theory, enable anyone anywhere in the world to replicate, modify and repair them — there are still several challenges to overcome:
We’re currently in the process of identifying standards and best practices for the design and documentation of open source hardware with the specific goal of enabling practical replication, modification, customization, and repair of the devices. The outcome will consist in:
Even with designs and build instructions available, the replication, modification and repair of hardware still requires access to tools and materials that may not be locally available.
In cases where the required tools and materials are not available, Everywhere Tech intends to work with the interested parties to address import substitution and tech recursion by assisting in the development of local micro-factories; researching alternative materials, tools and techniques; and collaborating on the redesign of the device taking into account local specifications.
In order to build or modify a device, skills such as soldering, welding, machining and operating digital fabrication tools are often required.
Everywhere Tech hopes to convey much of this knowledge through entry-level documentation and online tutorials. In addition to these resources, we seek to collaborate with local organizations — such as hackerspaces, schools, Fab Labs, and local shops — which can act as hubs for skills buidling and distribution of open source knowledge and plans to their surrounding communities.
Assembling and repairing hardware often requires technical support. In addition to this, solutions and modifications devised locally don’t always make it back into the public pool where they could be of use to others.
We seek to address this challenge by ensuring that all interested parties are connected and can provide peer-to-peer support to each other via an international network of producers-users. In addition, we’ll devise a simple process to allow knowledge generated during the technology transfer process to be added back to the public pool so that innovations devised by one community can benefit everyone else. In other words: our focus is as much on delivering open source knowledge as it is on capturing it and redistributing it. This applies not just to the hardware itself, but also to the process of technology transfer, which we see as a collaborative leaning process.