DevShare: a micro-royalty algorithm for distributed manufacturing of 3D printable, free & open source hardware

Posted in Uncategorized on October 7, 2013 by admin

3D printing continues to expand at an astounding pace. It seems like new breakthroughs are made on a weekly basis. As the variety and quality of designs continue to proliferate, more and more projects have become ‘replicable commodities’, or goods that can be 3D printed and there are people who want to buy them.  Designs like this are extremely important to us, and to the open hardware 3D printing movement in general.  In order to encourage their further development, and to thank developers who have already contributed, we want there to be some sort of profit sharing on the external designs we sell.  We are calling our first attempt at such a system DevShare.devshare2

The fundamental idea is to set aside and allocate some of the money being made by the sale of replicable goods to the people who have contributed to the designs of that good. Ideally, each developer would receive a fraction of this allocation proportional to their contribution to the design. In it’s final form, this would include designers of earlier iterations, or “ancestors”, of the object, though a greater allotment would be given to more recent contributors.

Such a system could give developers and designers an opportunity to spend more of their time designing things, with the potential to make some of money in the process.  It would free designers from production and sales tasks, while allowing them to continue releasing designs under free and friendly licenses.  Our marketplace is fairly small right now, so designer earnings will be relatively modest.  However, as our marketplace grows and if the idea is replicated by other makers and marketplaces, those earnings could increase.  Initially, DevShare will serve as a simple “thank you” to designers for their free and open work, but it will hopefully encourage more open source development for 3D printing.

DevShare also has the potential to address some of the issues with attribution and  noncommercial (NC) licensing. NC licenses certainly have their place, but unfortunately they are fundamentally incompatible with ‘free and open’, being a restriction to freedom. Therefore any work published with an NC license could never be incorporated into a truly ‘open hardware’ project.  People often choose to release designs NC because they want to avoid feeling “ripped off,” i.e., someone else profiting off their work. If an author intends to sell their work, releasing a design under an NC license makes good sense. However, there are often cases where an author has no intention to sell their work, yet a buyer market exists for their product. In these cases, an NC license effectively means “build it yourself, or you can’t have it”, which is difficult for people without access to a printer. Perhaps many of these designers would be amenable to switching from an NC license if DevShare were offered as an alternative.

Version 0.1: Primary Attributed & Thingiverse

Our first iteration of DevShare was done using our sales from August 2013. We manually tracked and tallied our online, in person, and wholesale orders, each one being based off a particular version of a particular design.  We used Thingiverse as this version control, presently the de facto standard in the 3D printing community. The major problem with Thingiverse however, is that every new contribution is considered a new design.  There are simple mechanisms to show inheritance from one project to another, but they are limited. As a starting point, we’re going to use simply “primary attributed” to do the allocations. The designer who we attribute under the terms of the license (most of which is a Creative Commons license, but we also attribute to GPL, Public Domain, etc) is the person who contributed the specific version of the product sold. This contribution could be a minor modification, or it could be the whole of the project.

There are obvious problems with this method. In some cases, an unattributed original author might have provided the vast majority of the legwork, while the attributed provided some finishing touches (e.g. add a magnet hole).  This could unfortunately lead to some resentment, and a sort of competition instead of collaboration. I have some ideas to alleviate these problems, but these will need be implemented in some later iterations.

togetherHow it is Calculated: 10% of Base Profit

After the sales were tallied, I earmarked 10% of the base profit of each sale, being defined as the sale price minus the raw material cost. The sale price is what was paid by the person who just bought the product, while the raw material cost includes only things like hardware (plastic, magnets, key rings — but not things like machine time, packaging, incidentals etc). This calculation is designed to align and balance the incentives between makers and developers.

To see the incentives, I use an example of a fictitious ‘smart watch’ which is made up of a printed band (say $1 plastic) and an ipod nano or something (say $99). The total raw material cost for this product is $100.  Suppose it was sold for $110.

With DevShare being 10% of profit, the maker profit is $9 and the DevShare is $1. This sale was profitable for all parties.  If instead the DevShare were 10% of total gross, the devshare is now $11 — and the maker profit becomes -$1. What was once profitable has now become unprofitable and that sale would not happen. Developers might even be tempted to incorporate more expensive components, knowing this would boost the DevShare — or at the very least, they could be less incentivised to decrease the component and raw material cost.

Similarly, if raw materials included things like packaging and machine time, then makers would be less incentivised to decrease these costs as they cut into the DevShare. These costs are also more difficult to account for.  Overall, I think this calculation is the most fair for all parties.

Results

For the month of August, we have calculated DevShare payments for about 15 different makers. The largest share goes to Emmett for a little over $50, mostly for his outstanding and ever popular rotating gears. Initially, we’re putting a cutoff at $5 accrued before payments will go out, which of course will roll over month to month. This week, we’ll be contacting each maker via Thingiverse to initiate the payments and inform them of the new policy. September will be coming soon after.

The Future

DevShare 0.1 as it has been outlined here is an experiment I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. I am hoping it will lead to more development in the open source 3D printing world, and I’m looking forward to giving back to the developer community in whatever way we can.  There is a lot of potential for 3D printing and open hardware. When combined with distributed manufacturing and a system like Devshare, this potential can be brought to it’s fullest.

30 Products in 30 Days

Posted in About us, Etsy, News, Products, Updates on August 7, 2013 by admin

Towards the end of June, Chris and I were brainstorming ways to perk up our etsy shop and challenge ourselves as makers. Inspiration hit when while browsing the Open Source Ecology blog, finding their 6-in-60 Campaign. While OSE is aiming to rapid prototype large items like cars and tractors, we were intrigued by the idea and adapted it to our small-scale format. Our goal was 30 products in 30 days. Given that our previous new product run rate was about 1-2 a month, this was ambitious goal, but we were excited!

The first thing we did was set up some guidelines for project completion. Basically:

1) Maintain Business Deadlines. No shipping orders late, neglecting communication or slacking on the other custom projects we had in the works. This project was designed to help us grow, not fall behind.

2) Design 100% [ctw?] originals. A lot of our products come from thingiverse.com and are sold as is, or tweaked a bit. It’s a great open source community, but now that we had the time we were anxious to spend more of it on independent design. Not everything would have to be [ctw?], but we wanted to have a good showing.

3) No crap. Sure, it’s easy enough to browse through pre-listed designs, download a few, print it out, snap a crappy pic (if the print works) and throw it up online, but it was important to us that the quality of our shop not degrade. Each product we sold before this project had some degree of development and finishing work before it was ready for market. For 30/30, designs would need to be curated, at times improved, and listings well thought out. Once those ideas were set, it was off to the races.

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Phew, what a month it has been! Now it’s all over and WOW am I thrilled to be done. In the end, it was extremely beneficial project; we doubled our etsy items and traffic in a month, gained insight into who our target market is (through observing trends of what caught on and what didn’t), and refined our 3D design skills by working on items from scratch. Orders picked up, money came in, and we finally finished many a pet project we didn’t have  time for back before we were full time makers. But it wasn’t easy, and at some points our pre-set guidelines took a beating.

We were most careful to maintain our pre-standing commitments, and although timelines are never perfect, we did manage to stay on track all month. No late orders, no unanswered questions, and forward-moving side projects. Check on guideline one.

Guideline two? That also went fairly well. We designed magnetic sets of the periodic table and the United States, a pair of David Bowie and heart cut out earrings, made a full sized replica of Finn’s Demon Sword from Adventure Time (as well as Princess Bubblegum’s Crown), a full set of MTG Mana Deck Boxes, and some local love magnets. It was awesome! I learned a ton about how to use Blender, our resident 3D design program; I even showed Chris a thing or two! One day we hope to create and sell at least 50% [ctw?] designs, and after this month we are well on our way.

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The last guideline was by far the hardest to maintain. I…am…so…tired…of…writing…etsy descriptions. I’m also tired of taking and editing product pics everyday, thinking of good tags, creating links back to designers, etc. etc. Also, weekends involving travel or guests would always set us behind, so a few times up to 3 products needed to roll out in a single day.  We cultivated and chose products together, but phew, I’m relieved to have some time off between writing another SEO filled, witty, BUY THIS ITEM description.

By August 1st, we had done 29 Products in 31 days. Not too shabby. As it currently stands, I have that last draft listing half-filled out in etsy, but it will just have to wait. Now, it’s time to think of the next big project to tackle!

 

Adventure Time, Portal and Lamps of the Future!

Posted in Etsy, Products, Uncategorized on June 20, 2013 by admin

Chris and I are officially full-time makers! Having more hours in the day has allowed us to roll out several new products this week. Check em out on the etsy (and share with your friends):

BMO ADVENTURE TIME, 3D PRINTED, HAND PAINTED

What Time Is It? …Adventure Time!

Hand-Painted BMO from Adventure Time now available in the shop. He/She (does anyone know?) is completely adorable; the perfect companion to sit on your desk or near your other game consoles. Can you really look at this and not think, “Who…wants…to…play VIDEO GAMES!?!”

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We also have an unpainted version, if you are feeling like giving your BMO a personal coat.

ROTATING GEAR COMPANION CUBE FROM PORTAL

The other companion cubes and Portal merch in the store are huge hits, and this one just ups the awesome-factor. Twist the cube to watch it deform and return back into the familiar, heart-covered companion cube shape. It’s available in almost every color of the rainbow! We are also working on getting a painted version of this one out – stay tuned…

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3D PRINTED LED DESK LAMP

This is a fully functional, solder-free, snap-together mini lamp. All the pieces are printed and assembled by hand, then the components are wired together with conductive thread. Truly, a lamp of the future.

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Thanks for looking! Chris and I are going to be out in the mountains of North Carolina over the next few days. Printers will take a bit of a rest, while we soak in some beautiful sights and sounds (no…printer…beeps…for….days…..) We’re stoked to have hit the ground running here in RVA. More to come, soon :D

70 Planes in 7 days? And there has to be a twist.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 19, 2013 by admin

The end of May was a crazy busy time. Between getting ready to move from Boston -> Richmond, wrapping up the day job, and a full month of craft fairs, there never seemed to be enough hours in the day. But when my bosses approached me about a special themed gift to give out at the 10 year anniversary party, I couldn’t resist the challenge.

An anniversary party was being held in an airplane hanger north of town.  The original plan was to get 70 marble bases from a trophy store, and glue 70 toy airplanes to the them. However, the airplane toys they were finding were not particularly impressive.  So they wanted to know how plausible it would be to have planes 3D printed instead.  The original idea cropped up on Monday morning; delivery would have to be the following Monday. 70 planes in 7 days….oh my!

Work needed to start immediately, so that night I test printed a few planes from Thingiverse. The one we liked the most was this model of an F22 Raptor.

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The 3D file was there, but it wasn’t quite ready for printing — it was still mostly support on the underside which resulted in a messy looking print. From the overall shape, I could tell it had potential, but it was the timing and economics calculations that would really reveal if this kamikaze commission could even work.

The next day, I showed some test prints to the folks at work, and they loved them, so we started to work out some of the other details. The plane should sit on top of the base, angled upwards on a swooping stand. And, crucially, there needed to be some extra twist.

After some 15 minutes of brain storming, we had an idea of what that could be.  The missiles could detach, and the tail fins of the missile could rotate along a hidden seam, and pop off to reveal a note inside.  This seemed vaguely possible, but time was very, very constrained. Basically, printing would have to start immediately.

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First though, I had to finish and finalize the airplane design. I stripped the detail off the bottom, so the plane would print smoothly without support. I also added pin holes to the bottom where I assumed some missiles and the stand could be added. After that, all 3 printers were set off and running!

By Thursday or Friday (T minus 3 days), just about all of the planes had been printed. Everything was finalized, but the missile mechanism turned out to be harder than I expected! The final little missile cap piece wasn’t totally finished and working until Sunday afternoon! 140 of anything takes a long time, so the final finished prints weren’t done until Monday morning at about 8am.

Even though it was a race to the finished, I was still pretty impressed that the whole process, from vague idea to 70 completed custom airplane trophies — took almost exactly 1 week!

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I was pretty happy with the way the design turned out. The models have been uploaded to thingiverse in case anyone wants to print their own F22 Raptor model — and listed on the Etsy too. Man, what a week!

Prototyping — headphones

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19, 2013 by admin

In January, I started building our the first full-fledged commissioned prototype. A local inventor came upon our setup at the 2012 Somerville MakerFaire — and contacted me to see if I could help him make his idea a reality. I’m still working under an NDA, so I’m not going to go into many specific details about the prototype.. but it essentially boils down to the creation of some 3D printed headphones.

I started with an existing 3D printed headphones project which I was quite impressed with — the 13:30 headphones from thingiverse (so named because the original prototype took 13 hours and 30 minutes to print). It is still definitely a work in progress, and it was not optimized for printing on a desktop-grade printer (the original printer was a high end Dimension). But it was definitely a jumping-off point!

It was pretty clear that the existing project would need some heavy modification, both to print smoothly on a desktop machine and to incorporate the new functionality. I was also unable to get the original CAD files from the creator — I was going to have to build the headphones from scratch.

Initially, I had ambition to make it using the 3dpcb solder-free project — but I quickly decided that this was beyond the scope of the project, and a little soldering would be required.

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I have always really disliked soldering. Maybe it’s because of the toxic fumes, or maybe it’s because in electronics class, I blew up every other transistor I laid down; when you’re writing code, you compile and see if it works — but when I applied this approach to electronics, a lot of things blew up in my face… Or, it might just be because I have been using an ancient soldering iron I inherited from childhood, where somehow the screw conducted more heat than the tip it was holding on.

In any event, I was recently offered the opportunity to select a product to rate and review, from newark.com. And so I selected a replacement soldering iron, manufactured by Weller.

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And it’s a great iron! It heats up really fast, and conducts quite well — putting the few solder joints I needed down in a fraction of the time.  I do wish it had a more effective stand to hold it while it heats up, but it has a super useful feature I didn’t expect — around the hot end, a ring LED indicator to signal when the iron is hot. So, it’s probably already saved several scorch marks on the furniture.

With the electronics part tested and validated, I was pretty confident I could help this inventor with his prototype.

Through the rest of Jan and Feb, I worked through the iterations in OpenScad, to deliver the initial proof-of-concept (in stylish beta colors).

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There is still a lot of fine-tuning to do, but I’m aiming to finish the completed functional prototype by the end of March. Once the initial prototype is completed, I will be posting some of the designs to thingiverse (for standard printable headphones, excluding the inventor’s specific new functionality).

Now we are even talking about putting together a kickstarter campaign, where supporters can actually get one of these things sometime later this year — so stay tuned!

 

Something Smart and Sweet for Valentine’s Day!

Posted in Etsy, Events, Products, Valentine's Day on January 14, 2013 by admin

Valentine’s Day is only one month away! This year, instead of the usual flowers and chocolates – get your special someone something with a twist – literally! Our Valentine’s Day Heart Gear is the perfect gift for your favorite lady or gent. It’ll last longer than candy and have everyone who sees it vying for a chance to give it a whirl.

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Available in our etsy shop in Pink or Red. Order by February 7th to guarantee delivery by Valentine’s Day!

Building love together: Wedding Unity Gear at an Engineering Wedding

Posted in Events, News, Products, Updates, Weddings on August 13, 2012 by admin

Sometimes, our customers truly amaze us. This was certainly the case when we first received an inquiry about producing one of our extra large hearts for the happy couple below. They were keen to put the gear together during their engineering themed wedding ceremony! Brilliant, and so unique. These hearts can be quite the puzzle to assemble (it certainly took us more than one try), but it looked like this brainy duo did a great job! We stayed in touch and were thrilled to receive pictures of the heart in action a few months later.

Congrats again to you both!

“Thank you so much for all the help with the gear (aka our wedding unity gear). It really gave our wedding ceremony the engineering-theme we were looking for. Thank you for being flexible about the design and getting it to us on time. Everything was amazing!”

Beautiful Images courtesy Hypen Photography!

 

I love to see my work in print!

Posted in 3D-PCB on August 2, 2012 by admin

On July 16, Thingiverse user Mattraptions uploaded a printable replica of the Pixar lamp.  A few days later, the fine folks at MakerBot uploaded an adapted version that used the ever-useful pins library created by Tony Buser. The end result was an awesome desk lamp shape that was 100% printable.  It immediately jumped to the top of the print queue.  It was quite a handsome build — but I really wanted it to light up!

That weekend, I loaded all the files into Blender, along with some of the 3D-PCB components.  A “bulb” snaps into the lamp shade and can hold an array of 6 LEDs. I added pegs down the arm to the base, so the conductive thread will have a path down to where the batteries will be.  The base was just big enough to add two AAA batteries and a switch.

UV lamp 3dpcb

The result is a vaguely steam-punk mini LED desk lamp, fully printable and solder-free. I’m sending a few to some friends to test the build-ability — but one Thingiverse user Bioluminescence has already built it! She hot-swapped in some glow-in-the-dark filament on the shade, to give it a glowy outer rim — and put in UV LEDs for the most badass black light I’ve ever seen, less than two weeks after the original Pixar mockup was posted. With free and open source designs, ideas can move pretty fast!

Spooky Stuff and Sea Life: New in the Shop!

Posted in Etsy, News, Products, Updates on July 25, 2012 by admin

Hey all -

We’ve been trying to keep new stuff coming your way over in our etsy shop. Check out the new products we’ve listed this month:

We’ve taken the Skull Bowl and created a new twist on our gear products: A Rotating Skull Gear! Perfect for anyone with a taste for the macabre.

And, speaking of macabre – have a look at this creepy contraption. This version of our Skull Bowl includes a detachable mandible and also Glows in the Dark (oooh aaah).

Can you tell we are into skull stuff? Well, we do have a new non-cranial addition this month: Magnetic Octopuses! These guys come with a super-strong rare earth magnet attached flush on the underneath side. Fab for steampunk enthusiasts or anyone with a fascination with these awesomely intelligent cephalopods.

Stay tuned for more additions and browse the shop for more!

Have a custom job you want to talk to us about? Feel free to drop us a line at 3Dideas@carrythewhat.com.

- Cyndi, [ctw]

A bit About Us, [ctw?]

Posted in About us, News with tags on July 8, 2012 by admin

chris and i have a tendency to do things kind of off the cuff. if we think something is an exciting plan/purchase/opportunity, we tend to ride that enthusiasm, make things happen, and figure out the details as we go a long. usually, there is enough time for everything to work out.

usually.

enthusiasm (and a steady paycheck) first enabled our initial entry in the world of 3D printing back in march of 2011. that’s when our first printer, Red, arrived from the fine folks over at Delta Mirco Factory Corporation. chris had been fascinated by the technology ever since reading an article on it some years ago in some popular science magazine; as soon as it became available for in-home use, we jumped on it.

by july of that year, we figured – hey, why not set up an etsy store and sell some 3D printed goodies online? we’d done a few commissions for some folks in chris’ office already; had started toying with a bit of design work, and learned just enough to trust our own abilities with the machine (see: one example of printing gone wrong – below!).

plus, one of the best things about the technology, and the community growing up around it, is it’s Open Source nature. sites like thingiverse.com have been instrumental in making the sharing and evolution of 3D designs accessible to a wide audience of interested folk. however, not everyone actually owns a 3D printer (yet), so we thought it would be great to make the actual physical objects attainable, too.

we started out with a very few products, some hideously taken photographs and super low prices. we were really running blind, and as far as i was concerned, had zero expectations of any real sales. we opened our virtual doors on July 18th 2011, and i believe were already setting the world ablaze with………less than $50 in sales that month.

thankfully, neither of us was in it for more than fun at that point. we both had our day jobs and were mostly just glad to have a reason to print and learn. as time went on, however, and our number of products increased (not to mention our ‘etsy skills’), so too did our sales. again, it wasn’t anything to retire on, but maintaining business did sincerely start to interfere with our already tightly booked work schedules. it became clear we were going to need to change some things around. by the end of 2011, after a particularly good holiday season, that whole drive from enthusiasm thing was up in full-force again. we started to think, hey, maybe we can give this a real shot?! chris was in a position to take a sabbatical from his job, and by February 2012, he finally took it. we had also purchased our second printer, the Makerbot Replicator, the day it was announced (January 2012) and ever since its arrived in March of 2012, we’ve been a 2 printer operation.

recently, we’ve finally built out a stand alone website (a work in progress) as well as started selling our 3D items in person around Massachusetts. so far, it has been a wonderful (and exhausting) experience. it’s been inspiring hearing that our products and machines are the first up-close example of the technology many people have seen, as many have only heard of it (and many others, not even that!) it has also been wonderful sharing in the optimism so many have about 3D printing’s abilities to really change the future.

i’m not sure what exactly the future of [carrythewhat?] holds, but i do know that i am excited about it! one day both Chris and myself hope to support our lives through utilizing and sharing this technology, and what it can create, with even more people. we are both currently exploring the world of 3D modeling as well as printable electronics and hope to continue to contribute to the community in the years to come.

- cyndi, [ctw?]