Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Advisor 1

Joshua M. Pearce

Committee Member 1

Jinshan Tang

Committee Member 2

Lucia Gauchia


Open-source software received tremendous success as it drives down the cost of software and expand the distribution. Open-source hardware, as part of the open-source movement, has just risen into public attention for its potential to further drive down the cost of all kinds of manufacturing goods and reshape the manufacture chain. In this report we explores the history, development and the future of open-source hardware project, summarizing the opportunities, challenges and possible solutions. 3D printing is demonstrated as a booster to assist open-source hardware’s development. Low-cost 3D printer enables at-home and in-time fabrication, the download-print-use-improve-distribute cycle is established to encourage more to make and in turn to benefit more. Researchers, teachers and scientists are the first to receive the benefit since they are often lack of budget to purchase much expensive research tools with only limited function. To demonstrate the power of open-source 3D printing in driving down research cost. A library of 3D printable optics components are designed, printed and tested. The study shows significantly reduced research cost – more than 97% equipment investment is saved with some of the optical parts representing only 1% of the cost of its commercial version. Cost reduction stimulates a much broader participants that can further help in modifying, improving the project or even developing new project, this is how open-source hardware innovation chain is established. In the end it is summarized as the technology advances, printers suitable for all kinds of material such as metals, bio-materials, semiconductors are become feasible, the open-source paradigm has the potential to replace the tradition manufacture and activate the new future.