Nov 012010

arduinoUsually I work only with the software, I’m not an expert of the hardware, but the excellent presentation by Riccardo Lemmi made me want to read a bit of material on the world of open hardware in general and Arduino in particular.

Open source hardware ( OSHW ) consists of physical artifacts of technology designed and offered in the same manner as free and open source software (FOSS). Open source hardware is part of the open source culture movement and applies a like concept to a variety of components. The term usually means that information about the hardware is easily discerned. Hardware design (i.e.schematics, bill of materials and PCB layout data) in addition to the software that drives the hardware are all released with the FOSS approach .

Since the rise of reconfigurable programmable logic devices, sharing of logic designs has been a form of open source hardware. Instead of sharing the schematics, HDL code (as in hardware description language) is shared. HDL descriptions are commonly used to set up system-on-a-chip systems either in field-programmable gate arrays or directly in application-specific integrated circuit designs. HDL modules, when distributed, are called semiconductor intellectual property cores, or IP cores.


Rather than creating a new license, some open source hardware projects simply use existing, open source software licenses.

Additionally, several new licenses have been proposed. These licenses are designed to address issues specific to hardware designs. In these licenses, many of the fundamental principles expressed in open source software (OSS) licenses have been “ported” to their counterpart hardware projects. Organizations tend to rally around a shared license. For example, Opencores prefers the LGPL, FreeCores insists on the GPL, Open Hardware Foundation promotes “‘copyleft’ or other permissive licenses”, the Open Graphics Project uses a variety of licenses, including the MIT license, GPL, and a proprietary license, and the Balloon Project wrote their own license. New hardware licenses are often explained as the “hardware equivalent” of a well-known OSS license, such as the GPL, LGPL, or BSD license.

Examples of Open hardware



The RepRap project, short for “replicating rapid prototyper”, is an initiative to develop a 3D printer that can print most of its own components. All of the designs produced by the project are released under an open-source license. It is self-replication that distinguishes the RepRap Project from the similar open-source [email protected] or CupCake MakerBot projects.

To date, the RepRap project has released two 3D printing machines: “Darwin”, released in March 2007, and “Mendel”, released in October 2009. Developers have named each after famous biologists, as “the point of RepRap is replication and evolution”.

Due to the self-replicating ability of the machine, authors envision the possibility to cheaply distribute RepRap units to people and communities, enabling them to create (or download from the internet) complex products without the need for expensive industrial infrastructure. They intend for the RepRap to demonstrate evolution in this process as well as for it to increase in number exponentially.


Bug Labs

Bug Labs is a technology company headqartered in New York City that develops and sells open-source hardware peripherals for rapid prototyping of electronic devices. The company developed a Lego-like hardware platform that geeks and engineers can use to create their own digital devices. Currently, the company accepts pre-orders for second version of their hardware range.

In fall 2010 the company starded partnerships with several mobile phone operators in the United States to ignite invention of new kinds of wireless devices. In September, it announced partnership with Verizon Wireless on developing “new wireless product innovation platform”



Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.

Arduino can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators. The microcontroller on the board is programmed using the Arduino programming language (based on Wiring) and the Arduino development environment (based on Processing). Arduino projects can be stand-alone or they can communicate with software on running on a computer (e.g. Flash, Processing, MaxMSP).

The boards can be built by hand or purchased preassembled; the software can be downloaded for free. The hardware reference designs (CAD files) are available under an open-source license, you are free to adapt them to your needs.

Arduino team is composed by Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, Gianluca Martino, and David Mellis.

Arduino Specifications

arduino specs
AVR Atmega
High Performance, Low Power AVR® 8-Bit Microcontroller

–RISC Architecture, 20 MIPS Throughput at 20 MHz

High Endurance Non-volatile Memory segments
-Flash program memory, EEPROM, SRAM

Peripheral Features
– – Real Time Counter with Separate Oscillator
– Six PWM Channels
– 8-channel 10-bit ADC in TQFP and QFN/MLF package
– 6-channel 10-bit ADC in PDIP Package
– Programmable Serial USART
– Master/Slave SPI Serial Interface
– Byte-oriented 2-wire Serial Interface (Philips I2C compatible)
– Programmable Watchdog Timer with Separate On-chip
– Two 8-bit Timer/Counters , One 16-bit Timer/Counter
On-chip Analog Comparator
– Interrupt and Wake-up on Pin ChangeN/MLF


The Arduino IDE is a cross-platform application written in Java which is derived from the IDE made for the Processing programming language and the Wiring project. It is designed to introduce programming to artists and other newcomers unfamiliar with software development. It includes a code editor with features such as syntax highlighting, brace matching, and automatic indentation, and is also capable of compiling and uploading programs to the board with a single click. There is typically no need to edit Makefiles or run programs on the command line.

The Arduino IDE comes with a C/C++ library called “Wiring” (from the project of the same name), which makes many common input/output operations much easier.


Fritzing is an open-source initiative to support designers, artists, researchers and hobbyists to work creatively with interactive electronics.
We are creating a software and website in the spirit of Processing and Arduino, developing a tool that allows users to document their prototypes, share them with others, teach electronics in a classroom, and to create a pcb layout for professional manufacturing.


There are many documented projects on the net who use arduino for various things, including home and garden automation, or use even more extravagant.

To see some examples:

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  4 Responses to “Open Hardware & Arduino”

  1. Arduino non smette mai di stupirci e per questo è stato creato un contest – arduino gratis! date un’occhiata qui:

  2. Great article, TY. and kudos to OpenHardware projects like this, it’s a tremendous amount of work to build projects like this without some kind of Capital ?
    We need much more OpenHardware in Linux, BSD/Unix’s….

    • Open Hardware it’s for sure an interesting topic.
      Arduino it’s going great for what i see around (more articles, how-to on big magazines, and so on..) i hope that also the others can get the same luck.

  3. Do you know EasyEDA, an circuit design software I use all the time. Try it at
    It can run on on windows , mac , linux or android platform, as long as there is one browser on the OS and connecting to network.
    It is a free, zero-install and integrates powerful schematic capture, mixed-mode circuit simulation, PCB layout and low cost PCB order service.
    It can import Schematics and PCB Files form Eagle, Altium Designer, Kicad, LTspice.
    It provides SVG source to preview Schematic, PCB Layout and Gerber file
    It provides rich spice models to make simulation .
    It provides simulation viewform viewer .
    It provides easy PCB order which saves your time to make sample PCB .
    Every project you create on EasyEDA can be private, shared, or public.private, shared, or public.

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