With the rise of the internet came an increase in the exchange of product details. Open source products give us their designs and promote free redistribution throughout the community. Some examples, of great open source products include Arduino, OpenOffice, Python, Eclipse, and Linux. However, leaving your designs open for everyone to see can definitely be risky business, especially when it comes to actual hardware. For a perfect example, Matt Strong, a mechanical engineer, has made an exact replica of the popular 3D printer, the MakerBot, and is going to attempt to sell it for a less expensive price.
Naturally, 3D printer fans and open source enthusiasts alike became instantly appalled and disturbed. The attempt to manufacture an exact replica of the popular and well-respected MakerBot, for a cheaper price, without adding any new features seems like an attempt to make easy money off somebody's creation. Strong has started a kickstarter page in order to raise money for the funding of the manufacturing process, which will take place in China, in order to reduce the pricing. He is asking $1,200 for his basic model of the TangiBot, which is the same and $600 dollars cheaper than the original MakerBot.
Strong was expecting the backlash that occurred after he announced his plans, and to his defense stated that he would like to make 3D printing more accessible to hobbyist and enthusiasts. Many people have voiced their opinion, picking their sides of whether it is right or wrong to do. Phillip Torrone, the creative director at AdaFruit Industries and Senior Editor at Make magazine, stated, “Being able to copy or 'clone' open source and open source hardware is not only OK, it's celebrated.” However, he also mentioned he was frustrated over the amount of times in which Strong referred to the MakerBot name on his kickstarter page to assure his product's quality.
Although there are many people who are backing him he will likely not reach his funding goal through kickstarter. So far he has only reached $42,369 of his lofty $500,000 goal with only 3 days to go. Strong did manage to stir up some interesting conversation and debates while on his mission. The weakness of open source hardware has been exposed which may make everyone think twice before making their product open source. But, the question of whether his decision was ethical or not will remain a philosophical one to be debated.