Open source Project / Hardware

Really interesting discussion going on here... my interpretation of "Open hardware" is that you should be able to retrofit in your existing board the new features that are being released. A clear example is that the new autoreset or autoboot feature of Diecimila is very useful, and the plain old Arduino serial board is very easy to retrofit. I tested it and I am publishing it in the Arduino Playground. On the other side, the not-so-old Arduino USB NG boards are very difficult to retrofit, so I built a diecimila compatible USB board using thorough-hole parts (the only SMD part is still the FTDI chip), with all the diecimila features from the schematic published by the Arduino team. There are a lot of electronics lovers out there that prefer to build the boards themselves, believe me. It is a more enjoyable Arduino experience. I love this kind of challenge so I am doing it to fill a gap, until I am told not to do so... If Arduino were "Open", not only publishing the schematics and the PCB files, but opening the evolution of the project to the whole community, we should have a hyper-arduino by now, with 1,000 of new features and not only autoreset and the overload protection (which are nice features, by the way...)... and also a larger user community and testers as well.

Hi, AutoReset retrofitting article is ready in


One other thing to note in this discussion is that the site is only advertising "official" Arduino products... there's no mention of the Barebones Arduino or the Runtime Arduino...

If the hardware were really open, wouldn't one also advertise those products as interesting and valid variants of the project? Protecting your market share in that way by only advertising your own products, to the exclusion of other products produced by the community, seems contradictory to the goals of open-source projects. Of course there isn't much history to go on here, but it doesn't seem right.

The more I think about this, it seems that the Arduino project is really an open-source software and information project wrapped around a closed hardware product.


wrapped around a closed hardware product.

Don't get too carried away; while the Arduino hardware info might not be quite as available as you would like, it's still quite FAR from being "closed."

Westfw, would you not agree that it is not truly open-source?

To make an "Arduino" you need a design, the production information and permission to use the name. Only one of those things is available; the others are not. It is not 'closed' for hobbyists who want to make one or two, but if you wanted to make a hundred commercially, or make a variant called "Arduino Red", you can't, because commercial production is closed, not open. That much is pretty clear. It's in that sense that I said that the project is currently "wrapped around" a closed piece of hardware...


Well, I’m not entirely sure I understand what “open source hardware” means. “Permission to use the name”? What does that have to do with “hardware” ? If I want to make a couple hundred Arduino-2.1 board to embed in a commercial product (not bearing the name “arduino”, but crediting the project in documentation), there are no problems doing that, right? Are you trying to duplicate the hardware, or the entire Arduino “Business” ? I supposed that being FULLY open-source might imply that you could do the latter, but I don’t know that I believe that it is in the “spirit” of open source.
The more valid point is that the Arduino team doesn’t seem to be following their own “share-alike” provisions with the newer hardware: no CAD files for NG, BT, mini, Diecimila. This also seems “not in the spirit of open source”, although it’s probably their rights as the original developer.
Finally, there’s the whole issue of what makes for “open source” publication of a HW design. CAD files for schematic and PCB in my favorite format are certainly nice, but a printed schematic is certainly more “open” than the average consumer device.

Well, I'm not entirely sure I understand what "open source hardware" means.

Yes well I think you put your finger on it right there... none of us understand what it really is, because it hasn't relaly been done at this scale before. that's why I think this discussion is so interesting...

Re your other point, the hardware object is not covered by CC, and it is not patented, so you could reproduce a million if you like. But you couldn't use the trademark.

Are you trying to duplicate the hardware, or the entire Arduino "Business" ? I supposed that being FULLY open-source might imply that you could do the latter, but I don't know that I believe that it is in the "spirit" of open source.

Read back about thirty(!) posts. The OSI definition does not discriminate against field of endeavour: if your project meets their definition of OS, someone could start a business, use them for development, give them away etc. I think the Arudino "business" (i.e. the files, design, name etc) should belong to anyone who wants to participate, and not be controlled by a single entity. This is how the project got so many supporters, by advertising itself implicitly as doing that. Given the fact that the community put so much into the project and made it successful as a result, I think it's reasonable to say that community owns "the Arduino business", not the team. Arduino really belongs to the hundreds of poeple who made the name popular with hundreds of blog posts, articles, tutorials and projects. As such the process of making and selling should be more open. We're not talking about someone's personal product here, we're talking about a design that was released as open-source and gained many many supporters, but is still produced within a closed model of manufacturing.

You're right though, there are lot of issues.... but all those issues mean this is a chance for the team to take a stand and set the standard for very open hardware.



just to add another note about name confusion: it's already happening. But in this case, it's the user who is calling a Barebones an Arduino. So if the goal in controlling the hardware is to prevent confusion, this article seems to say it's too late....

He keeps saying "Arduino signal generator" so I'm looking for an Arudino but not finding one in the pictures. Finally I understood that he meant a BB Arduino.


Here's another:

Name Confusion

In that respect, it seems like a bad idea to have the same name refer to both the software/development environment and the hardware implementations. Vendors should be able to implement and advertise a piece of hardware as "arduino compatible" or "arduino based" without becoming confused with a particular piece of standardized "official" hardware. (Perhaps that's where things are going with "Diecimila")

A primary goal of the Arduino project is that all of its parts work well together. You should feel confident that the Arduino software will be able to program your Arduino board, and that both will be documented on the Arduino website. To make sure this happens, we work hard to coordinate the development of the various pieces of the project. For example, enabling the automatic reset on the Diecimila required many careful modifications of the Arduino software and lots of testing; it was only possible because we share common goals for the project and are willing to work together to make them happen. Arduino's not perfect, but much of its power comes from its shared vision and coordinated effort.

To maintain this coherence and utility, we believe it's important to maintain control over what gets identified with the project and called an "Arduino". This lets the community have confidence that when they use an Arduino, they're using something that works well and works together with the other parts of the project. If anyone could call anything "Arduino", the name wouldn't be useful as a way of identifying anything. You wouldn't know if it worked with the software, if it could be used with the shields, if it would be documented, etc.

This doesn't mean that everything Arduino needs to come from us. In fact, another of our goals is to promote hardware designed by other people: helping to manufacture it, distributing it, supporting it with the Arduino software, and so on. We've done this with the XBee shield, which was designed by Libelium Communications and now appears in their SquidBee wireless sensors nodes. We're doing it with Leah Buechley and Sparkfun with a new wearable version of the Arduino. We hope to do it with a lot more people and products (if you're interested, contact us). We just want you to talk with us to ensure that your work fits well with the rest of things that go under the name "Arduino". Of course, we don't want to stop you from describing your work in relation to Arduino; so if your board "can be programmed with the Arduino software" or "is based on the Arduino reference designs", go ahead and say so.

Of course, we're not trying to imply that everything should be part of Arduino. If you want to create your own project, go for it. All we're asking is that you let us keep an eye on what happens to ours.

We're in the process of opening up our hardware designs and production files; I hope to have more to say on that soon.

Of course, we're not trying to imply that everything should be part of Arduino. If you want to create your own project, go for it. All we're asking is that you let us keep an eye on what happens to ours.

We're in the process of opening up our hardware designs and production files; I hope to have more to say on that soon.


that is great news. Have you also considered the possibility of at least indexing the other variants within the Arduino site?

Also, if I am not mistaken, Libelium paid $$ to the Arduino group to license the Arduino name on their product. Is that the model you're talking about-- i.e. you can work with us to use the name and maintain standards, but you have to pay for the privilege? If so, that sounds exactly like commercial licensing. One could, for example, make Coca-Cola, but you would have to arrange licensing and standards oversight, and you would have to pay for the privilege. What's the difference between that model and the one you're talking about here?

... another of our goals is to promote hardware designed by other people: helping to manufacture it, distributing it, supporting it with the Arduino software, and so on.

Yes could you elaborate on this... Does "helping" cost money, or is it free?


PS: as this thread has been open for two months now, I am wondering where the opinions of the rest of the team are? Why don't you guys post to this thread and participate in an open discussion? This may be one of the core problems here, that the decisions take place in private. It's an open project... how about an open discussion? Sorry to say this so bluntly, but after two months one would expect that the other team members would weigh in.

hi everyone,

i appreciate daniel's approach to make this an open discussion, so i thought i'd write something about my opinion. i'm not involved in developing arduino though. i totally agree with mellis, about a core team that keeps an eye on the development. yes its free and its open, but not everything free and open is automatically great. arduino is one project and deserves a unique name which identifies it as such. i think of the core developer group as luxury which many open source projects lack.

if it's fine to write "based on arduino", or "arduino inside"(if there's one original inside), i think that's alright. if you make something for arduino, i see the necessity to clear up on the copyright involved. wouldn't one be allowed to write "made for arduino" as in "made for iPhone"?

another important aspect is production. it's a good thing that someone (we can point our fingers on) is in charge of these decisions. since the code and files are essentially available the name "arduino" is the only thing that's left to keep control over production. of course "made in italy" doesn't make sense in all parts of the world. but that's another problem.

and finally i see no problem in cooperation with chip manufacturers, resalers or whatsoever by members of the group, or the team as a whole. this is not the state i'm living in, it's an open source project by some people. and luckily it let's me realize my own projects on very basic level that i'm not afraid to become dependant on a brand and its development. help is free and work is not. :P the rest again is production, and that of course involves money.

so long, kuk

hey kuk

yes of course production involves $ :)

But Libelium did their own production, and I was told that they paid to use the Arduino name. Their circuit is only a few connectors and about five other components: it's really, really simple. So basically it looks as if they paid for licensing the name.

We've discovered in this thread that there have been some secrets kept about how the Arduino project works, so I hope people don't mind me asking a LOT of questions this time around. If the plan is going to be that poeple can use the name under license $, then the terms have to be clear.

For a long time the project has led people to believe that they were participating in truly open hardware development. Now that we have understood that this isn't the case- i.e that some things we have supported with the understanding that they were open aren't really open- the ethical thing to do from now on is to make things explicitly clear.

You know, if you are going to take contributions and hard work form hundreds of people, you owe it to those people to be explicitly clear about how you will use their efforts. So far this has not been the case.


well it is about 10 weeks since first asked this question....

I have heard that behind the scenes all kinds of things are being done: the name is being trademarked, a policy is being drawn up, and apparently the files will be made public.

It's interesting though that no one from the team other than Mellis has responded to this thread. It would be great if there were a public consultation process of some sort... I hear that might be coming soon too. Anyone from the team care to provide an update?


We're working on it. I'm also not happy that it's taking so long, but unfortunately, it difficult to coordinate five people around the world who are very busy with other things. It will be soon, I hope.

Cool, thanks Mellis. It is great to see that the team is moving towards a more open model in terms of the files and production rights for the files.

In the meantime if anyone is looking for open-source, unrestricted Diecimila-equivalent files, have a look at the Freeduino PCB project over at

We ( i.e. the Freeduino team, which is not associated with the Arduino team-- although we like and respect them :) ) have released the Schematic and PCB files for a Diecimila-equivalent board called Freeduino. Working prototypes exist for 0603, 0805 and 1206 SMT versions, as well as a through-hole version. These files carry no restrictions other than maintaining the attribution on the design files, as Creative Commons licenses apply only to designs, and not to the objects produced from the files.

This means you can use the Freeduino design files almost any way you want-- you could even pirate them and make another design: Funkyduino? GrooveDuino? You choose. Open and freeeee....duino :)

A small pic is here, more to follow.

hey-- I think that pretty much closes the substantive aspects of this thread, since the files for a working Diecimila-compatible board are now available for use without restriction, and so is the name Freeduino!

Viva open-source :)


The eagle files for the Arduino Diecimila and BT are now available under a CC BY SA license, see the blog post for more information:

I've been following this fascinating thread from the beginning and I'm really happy that it has concluded in such a great way.

Took me a whole morning to read this thread through... Great to see things going an open way, what keeps the enthusiasm.

Things have been always open since day one... most of this thread is one year old :)