Donal Reddington on mass customization, crowdsourcing and digital manufacturing

Designer publishes CAD files of lighting designs under Creative Commons

Ronen Kadushin, a lecturer in furniture design at the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design in Israel, has published a collection of lighting and accessories, which is one of the first examples of product designs being made available under the principles of ‘Open Design’.

An example of Ronen Kadushin's work

The design data for the products has been published on Ronen Kadushin’s open design website.

He describes Open Design as “A personal attempt to close a creativity gap between product design and other fields (music, graphic design, animation and photography), which found their creative output in phase with the realities of information technology and economics.

The Open Design method is based on the principles of the already successful Open Source method that revolutionized the software industry, and gave birth to a social movement that is cooperative, community-minded and seeks legitimate ways of sharing creativity.”

In Open Design, the design is a two dimensional “cutout” represented as digital information. From the website, the design package can be downloaded free of charge under a Creative Commons deed. The terms of this licence allow a user free personal use of the design data. The user can modify the design for their own purposes, and may distribute the new design under the same terms that they received the original.

However, the data may not be used on a commercial basis without prior agreement. In everyday language, you can’t download the data for free and use it to make money for yourself. (Manufactured versions of the first Open Design collection of lighting and accessories are soon to be on sale.)

This type of licensing arrangement has become popular with regard to journalistic articles that are published on the internet. However, the use of creative commons licensing for distributing products design data is still in its infancy.

The laser cut shape before folding (not full size)

The actual downloads that are available from the website include a .dxf design file, a readme file with instructions on how to use the data, and images of the finished product. The example shown here is the Mikrokamin candle holder, a miniature fireplace design, into which a ‘night light’ candle is placed. The instructions file says that “In order to produce this object you need to be somewhat proficient with handling DXF files, have knowledge of laser cut part production, have two good hands and a creative and experiment loving personality”.

On the dxf file, there are some preparatory steps required, the main one of which is to delete the design’s square frame. Following these steps, the Mikrokamin candle holder is ready for laser cutting. In this example, the curves are all arcs, with no hidden lines or layers. 1mm or 1.5mm stainless steel or 1-1.5mm “mild” steel is used. Then it is just a case of bending the cutout by hand and/or with pliers until it looks like the one in the photo.

Other interesting examples include the iRiver MP3 player stand (below).

The iRiver stand

It is an interesting and innovative step to publish actual design data under a creative commons licence. Those who work in design and manufacturing fields will be the first to benefit from this type of arrangement. Ordinary consumers, who do not have everyday access to laser cutters, will take longer to pick up on this idea. Perhaps there is an opening for a manufacturer of laser cutters to develop a ‘desktop’ version for the home?

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