Top ten open source projects of 2011

Best of the Blog 2011 – Open Source

The open source movement has come a long way since its beginning with computer software. Now we have open source electronic hardware, digital fabrication machines, and even farming equipment and houses. If it can be made, it can be open sourced. Here are our top ten articles about open source projects from 2011.

#10 Second Generation Open Source Laser Cutter

This is a new and improved version of a laser cutter project organized on Buildlog.Net. It’s compact enough for a desktop and nicely contained in a custom enclosure. All the plans are available for free and kits are also available.

#9 Arduino 1.0 programming environment and language released

Despite the fact that Arduino has been widely used for several years, the programming language/environment only recently left beta status. Version 1.0 was released in 2011, the first full official release. They grow up so fast . . .

#8 FabFi: community-built wireless network

This is one of those inspiring projects that is so simple, yet so effective, you have to wonder why no one thought of it earlier. It combines an off-the-shelf router and a CNC’ed reflector dish to provide wireless internet to small communities in Kenya and Afganistan.

#7 Comic-style introduction to Arduino

Arduino helps people who are not so technically inclined do amazing things with technology, but understanding how it all works still requires wading through some technical information. Artist Jody Culkin made this beginning stage easier in the form of a comic-style introduction to Arduino. As a bonus, the comic has a CC license.

#6 Global Village Construction Set

The goal of Global Village Construction Set is to provide open source plans for all the farming and building machinery needed for a thriving village. This is, obviously, no small task, but they are doing great so far. Perhaps most notably, their machines are, on average, 8x cheaper than commercially available counterparts, including the cost of labor to build them.

#5 Open source hardware from Microsoft

Hearing “open source” and “Microsoft” in the same sentence is enough to make anyone skeptical, yet Microsoft is now offering their own open source microcontroller to compete with Arduino. I’ll let you judge for yourself.

#4 littleBits — educational open-source modular electronics

Electronics has a pretty steep learning curve to make much of anything. There’s studying the different components, soldering, and just figuring out how to connect everything together in a way that actually does something. littlebits is trying to simplify the process with pre-assembled modules that snap together with magnets to get you to the fun part faster.

#3 FabScan open source 3D scanner

It seems like a new low-cost open source 3D printer appears on the market every other week these days, but 3D scanners are quite a bit more rare. Enter the FabScan, an open source scanner based on a webcam.

#2 WikiHouse – the open source house

I’m not sure if this is the most complex open source project I’ve seen, but it’s definitely the largest in terms of physical size. The project is trying to make available plans for livable houses that anyone can download, cut with a CNC mill, and assemble with hand tools.

#1 Doctor 3D prints a model of a bone for surgery preparation

With the cost of healthcare rising at a dizzying rate, this project shows a small glimmer of hope. An orthopedic surgical trainee used open source software and an online 3D printing service to make a better model for surgical preparation than the hospital could for more than $1000 less.