Quantifying the Value of Open Source Hardware Development

Submitted by pearce_47155 on

Primary Author: 
Joshua Pearce
With the maturation of digital manufacturing technologies like 3-D printing, a new paradigm is emerging of distributed manufacturing in both scientific equipment and consumer goods. Hardware released under free licenses is known as free and open source hardware (FOSH). The availability of these FOSH designs has a large value to those with access to digital manufacturing methods and particularly for scientists with needs for highly-customized low-volume production products. It is challenging to use traditional funding models to support the necessary investment of resources in FOSH development because of the difficulty in quantifying the value of the result. In order to overcome that challenge and harvest the current opportunity in both low-cost scientific equipment and consumer products, this article evaluates the following methods to quantify the value of FOSH design including: 1) downloaded substitution valuation; 2) avoided reproduction valuation and 3) market savings valuation along with additional benefits related to market expansion, scientific innovation acceleration, educational enhancement and medical care improvement.