A brief note from Adrian Bowyer

Adrian Bowyer
Dr. Adrian Bowyer

"Hello everyone at the Open Source Hardware 3D Printer Convention.
When I started RepRap and open-sourced it in 2004, I thought that it might work. When I say work, I mean that if the machine were built, it would function roughly as intended. However I had no idea that it would also work as a global social, political and economic movement.

But that seems to have happened. As RepRap's instigator, I am - as you can imagine - both pleased and alarmed by this turn of events: pleased because so many people have turned out to share my vision of democratising and distributing manufacturing by freeing it and making it self-replicating; and alarmed in the way that any person walking down the street would be if they were to turn to find that a large crowd had silently fallen into step behind them.

Except that the crowd is not silent. The internet has given it a voice, and a means to distribute its ideas. People want to make things for themselves, even if doing that is a little bit technically difficult. And Open Source Hardware is reducing that difficulty with every passing day. Schoolchildren are using open 3D printers, where only a few years ago that would have been the preserve of engineering students.

In 1973 Xerox PARC created the windows interface that now allows anyone to use a computer. And today we are creating the tools to allow anyone to make things. And that means making things without corporate restrictions and without the restrictions of economies of scale.

Freedom means nothing unless it includes the freedom to do something unpopular. By unpopular, I don't mean that other people disapprove. I simply mean that other people don't want to make the thing that you want to make. Before, no factory would make you a custom, named carrot-holder for your pet rabbit's cage, because you were the only person who wanted it. Now you can make it yourself. Just one. And that's as unpopular - and therefore as free - as you can get.

Good luck to you all, and enjoy the convention.