Makers, they're a crafty bunch. We scrounge, we forage and we use are expert resourcefulness to bind our projects together, sometimes with a little more hot glue and zip-ties than necessary. As makers, we generally try to accomplish our goals without re-inventing everything. We use the tools and gadgets that our co-conspirators have already developed to build on top of and get to results as quickly as possible. The quicker we fail, the quicker we can move on to the next attempt. The speed with which we've been seeing things evolve lately is pretty phenomenal. When the barriers to innovation (like patents) are removed and others are allowed to use and build on top of the works of others, we see rapidly compounding effects. The open source movement has enabled so many, and has arguably only benefited the general public.
It's important to remember that making things in a vacuum doesn't benefit anyone. We need to share our projects and ideas with the community at large so that those ideas and projects can blossom to their full potential and inspire others. For us, today was a special day where we feel like we've done our small part to give back to the community. Our favorite supplier of hobbyist electronics and components, where we've spent a lot of time and money buying parts to build a lot of our projects, Sparkfun.com has started selling our Bartendro Dispensers to the Maker community. May others take the building blocks we've created and unleash their creativity with them like we've done with the parts of our predecessors.
In the same vein, a huge shout out goes out to the folks behind Arduino and Raspberry Pi, they have enabled us and hundreds of thousands of people to play and create without the fuss of knowing all the low level details. We were at the Maker Faire last weekend and got placed directly in front of the Arduino booth. We've bought and used dozens of Arduinos in the process of developing Bartendro over the years. So it was fantastic to come full-circle and hang out with Massimo Banzi, a co-founder of Arduino and personally thank him for making our lives that much easier. Thank you for getting us this far, our only hope now is that others may say the same about our stuff in the future. So go make come cool stuff and tell us about it!
The last few weeks have been exciting we’ve gotten to see what our backers are doing with their newly acquired hardware. One person decided that a dispenser which only pours one shot was not nearly ambitious enough. Once he got his hands on a dispenser he set out to create ShotBot R4, which can pour up to four shots using a custom designed rotating stand. Seeing projects like this, using our core technology, is just one of the many reasons we love being an open source company. As you acquire your kits and bots make sure to share your new creations with the community. Part of being open source is sharing our ideas, creating a community where everyone can help each other to create an even better product. Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!
While some guffaw at the idea of open source it is one of our key tenets. To hear more about open source and Party Robotics check out this interview with our own Robert Kaye during London’s Music Tech Fest.
Back in the San Luis Obispo workshop, Pierre and Garran have been working night and day to prepare all the bots for shipments. Recently they’ve machined B3 spouts and aluminum tubing, been figuring out silkscreen artwork, packaging for large bots, and making final modifications to the larger bot’s spout designs. Our schedule has been modified slightly from when we were hoping to deliver at the end of our Kickstarter campaign. As work continues, new issues come to the surface and we’ve enhanced or modified our original designs to bring you the best possible product. Right now our anticipated shipment dates are:
August 5th: Begin delivery of remaining kits.
August 19th: Delivery of Bartendro 3 and Shotbots
August 31st: Delivery of Bartendro 7 and 15s
We will of course continue to keep you updated on our progress. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!
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Freshly machined aluminum tubing[/caption]
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Testing out silkscreen designs[/caption]
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Peering inside of a large bot spout[/caption]
The Maker movement has truly been amazing to watch unfold over the last decade. Democratized information and tools have enabled widespread innovation and collaboration, creating dozens of hackerspaces and businesses in the wake. We love this and we want to be a part of it.
The issue of intellectual property is a tricky one. The patent was originally intended to protect inventors from large companies. After an individual would spend large amounts of capital for the required initial research and manufacturing, a large company with more capital could came along and create the same thing cheaper or faster, bringing the original inventor to ruins. The patent gave the original inventor a buffer period to create their products and provided a sufficient incentive for the populous to continue to innovate. At least that was the humble goal.
Today, patent struggles between giant corporations have crippling effects with injunctions and overall costs reaching into the billions. Patents now rarely belong to individuals, but to companies with ever increasing portfolios that they arm to wage war with. Is this really how we want to proceed? I've heard rumors of patent reform always being just around the bend, but that will be a slow and laborious process most likely. So what do we do until then? Well, it turns out that the ingredients of ubiquitous information on the internet, thriving online social networks and a slumping job market provide the right mix of time and resources to allow people to collaborate and contribute to projects they like, like never before.
Open source software has been around for decades and is the foundation of a lot of everyday objects...i.e. anything running Linux. It's only recently that we've started seeing open source hardware companies too like Sparkfun and Adafruit. Making software open source is a no-brainer, the costs of creating and shuffling bits is negligible, and the potential for people to add meaningful contributions or the code to provide educational benefit is a net positive for everyone. Hardware on the other hand still requires the moving of atoms: welding, machining, pcb fabrication, assembly, inventory all consume considerable energy and capital. By putting the files "out there" a company risks having their products knocked-off and made cheaper and to lower quality standards. How does a company protect their investment in their IP then?
The models are becoming more clear. A transparent business, with a growing community are fundamental to operating successfully. Also, trademarks and copyrights become much more important. The notion of someone making the same thing but better, or cheaper should be encouraged; this is why we do open source in the first place. Others must just follow the guidelines set forth by the copyright owner. Attribution and share-alike are common ones, meaning the person building on your work needs to also share it and give you credit. The person copying can't use the same trademarked name, and therefore can't steal the brand you've worked to build up too. The brand and community go hand in hand, and this is what people come back for. The support of the community, and to support the original creators.
Is an open source company, more or less lucrative as a business decision? Hard to say for sure, and it depends on the products and industry, but they can definitely both be run successfully. An open source company is likely more fun to run, and engages others to be a part of the process. Customer feedback flows quickly and more directly and qualified contributors don't need to be co-located but could live on the other side of the planet. The pros certainly seem to outweigh the risks, but there are examples of it not always working out like with MakerBot Industries and their recent pulling out of open-source. Is it the right decision for you? Is it the right decision for Party Robotics? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Some more reading:
A good book on the topic, covering crowdfunding as well:
Makers: The New Industrial Revolution