This Open Source Factory Plans To Produce Helpful Items–Then Give The Designs Away

Open Tech Forever wants to take the idea of freedom of information into the physical realm, by creating a real factory to create open source items like kilns and wheelchairs.

This Open Source Factory Plans To Produce Helpful Items–Then Give The Designs Away
Abstract via Shutterstock

Open Tech Forever believes in making good machines, then giving the technology away, so someone else can make their own model, and hopefully improve it. To cofounder Aaron Makaruk, open source methods are fundamentally more innovative than centralized development. “We believe that by working openly, we can attain design insights and solve problems at an accelerated rate due to the greater number of people involved,” he says.


“While companies working on proprietary technology may beat us on their ability to concentrate knowledge and technical ability, the open hardware industry clearly has an adaptive advantage.”

Open Tech Forever is a spin-off from a Missouri-based group called Open Source Ecology that we covered recently. OSE is developing 50 open source machines that “allow modern life to exist” (brick presses, saws, cement mixers, you name it). Now, three members of OSE have split to form their own group.

Open Tech wants to build an “Open Source Factory” at a 40-acre site outside Denver, though they recently failed to raise $50,000 on Indiegogo.

Makaruk says the plant, which he hopes to complete in the fall, will be used for production, research, design documentation, and teaching. The group’s first product is likely to be a biochar kiln that they can sell to local community gardens, and further afield. After that, they have ready-to-go designs for a computer-controlled mill, wheelchair, and cold saw. It’s also possible Open Tech will adopt some of OSE’s designs, once they are released.

Makaruk says the project, like OSE, will offer an alternative to the unfairness and wastefulness, as he sees it, of the mainstream economic system. Open source is not only better for product development, he says, but fairer to the disadvantaged.

“Open technology allows more people to access the source materials for a given piece of technology. We don’t have to oppose closed intellectual property, or the choices of others. But it’s up to us to develop a parallel economy that serves our interests alongside the mainstream economy.” 

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.