Open collaborative design/'Open source' applied to the physical world

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Vertical axis wind turbine
There is no reason why open source development methods currently used with many software projects cannot be applied to machines and systems in the physical world. In fact physical objects are much more intuitive to understand than abstract computer code especially when viewed using 3D CAD that can show grouped sub-assemblies, exploded views, kinematics, cross-sections, supporting animations and notes. It is just that the freely available tools and infrastructure needed for this to be possible do not yet exist in a user-friendly and mature state needed for widespread adoption. All the technologies exist, they just need to be put together in the right way and refined.

The simplest method is to share information through a website on how to make things using text, diagrams and photographs. A more sophisticated way to collaborate on complex machinery and products would be to share CAD assemblies much like project teams do in engineering and product design companies, knitted together with supporting information in an open and freely structured environment, much like a wiki 11px-Wikipedia_logo.jpg.

There are certain barriers to overcome for open design when compared to software development where there are mature and widely used tools available, and the duplication and distribution of code cost next to nothing. Creating, testing and modifying physical designs is not quite as straightforward because of the effort and time required to create the physical artifact. However the physical world is catching up fast with the virtual world in this respect.