On August 1, 2012, Sam Muirhead embarked on a life that most people can't even fathom. This native New Zealander who now lives and works in Berlin started an entire lifestyle of using only open source products, designs, entertainment, transportation, and more. Though most people think of open source as related to computer code, Muirhead expanded this concept to include anything that did not come with the restraints of copyrights or patents.
In other words, if it was proprietary, Muirhead didn't use it, buy it, watch it, listen to it, work with it, or wear it. He learned a lot about 3-D printing and digital manufacturing, as well as software programming, clothing design, making beer, and riding a bicycle in Berlin's unforgiving wintertime.
What Living a Year of "Open Source" Meant
The project began as Muirhead, a videographer, was doing online research. It occurred to him how the collaboration among so many people (for free) had produced such a wealth of free online resources for all to benefit from. One of his first projects was abandoning his Mac operating system for Linux, taking advantage of open source software like LibreOffice, and developing his own when the available software was inadequate.
Everything Muirhead developed and created during this project then became open source, available to others to use, modify, and distribute themselves. It didn't take long for him to realize that he needed a lot of products that would require a 3D printer. Not all of his projects, of course, were viable at first. It took a lot of trial and error, but Muirhead maintains he didn't cheat. In fact, the project continues even now, after his one-year mark passed on August 1, 2013. He still strives to live as open source as possible, though he's less strict about it now.
What Muirhead Learned
What Muirhead learned was that nobody needs special skills or a background to begin doing things for themselves. When using open source, you never have to start from scratch. By taking advantage of all of the successes and failures that came before you, you have a starting point for making it better, developing things that are better suited to your personal needs, and further the creation for those who come after you. As the work of newcomers compounds upon what has come before, new things get developed faster and the end result is a better, more usable product.
How Muirhead's Story Relates to CAD Design
Currently, the database of common CAD designs is relatively small. Much of the work done in the field of digital manufacturing is proprietary, or at least experimental and unshared. Is it time to further the cause by making more designs, both successes and failures, available to the masses? After all, it's often a better learning experiment to see how and why a particular project failed, because this gives others the opportunity to correct mistakes and forward the design. More sharing leads to more collaboration, which ends up a win-win for all.
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