Some say it has grown into a sellout bastion of hipster capitalism, while others say it is one of the best cultural weathervanes for determining our latest trends in all of the new economy’s driving sectors: music, film, design, technology etc. Regardless of your view of the festival’s evolution over the years from small-scale indie to mainstream corporate, it is always interesting to review the participants of Austin, Texas’ annual South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival. This year’s gathering, which takes place from March 11-20, 2016, has just announced its Interactive Innovation Awards in 20 categories, including: health, med, and biotech; music and audio innovation; responsive design; visual media experience; wearables, and many more categories. One category was explicitly set aside for 3D printing technology, 3-DIY. (No doubt, 3D printing technology played a role in some of the other categories as well.) And the winner for this award has certainly caught our eye!
This year’s 3-DIY award goes to London- and Amsterdam-based Wevolver, which maintains an office in the FabLab London space. As described on the organization’s website, Wevolver’s mission is to democratize open source hardware technology in the spirit of the maker movement (with an undeniable for-profit vibe).
Wevolver situates itself squarely in the center of a democratic and open source hardware technology movement that seeks to address social and sustainable issues ignored by government and corporations. As the website explains:
“The development of technology is increasingly becoming a bottom-up process. Access to making, buying and using technology is growing because low cost technologies are becoming more readily available. On a personal level, open source hardware allows you to access knowledge and improve skills. And on a wider level, it creates a pool of information useful for developing and understanding technology.”
Wevolver’s for-profit network was started by open hardware makers with backgrounds in design, software, and engineering. It is project-based, allowing you to search the site and network with makers linked to specific projects. It allows you to register your own project on the site, as well.
Categorically, the website’s home page is devoted to a few specific kinds of hardware: robots, drones, machines, and “more” — which is kind of like a miscellaneous projects category. Under “Robots” we encounter the extremely impressive 3D printable InMoov Robot, which first caught our attention early last year. Created by Gael Langevin, the robot can be mounted on a Segway people mover, and it features Arduino-controlled hands and forearms. More importantly, in the spirit of open source hardware, is that the robot is replicable if you have access to a 3D printer with a 12 x 12 x 12 cm build area.
There are many other projects registered on the Wevolver site, and it is difficult to choose which ones to highlight. There are eight robot projects listed, three drone projects, and eleven machines (including some funky looking 3D printers, of course, like the cheap Pico 3D printer pictured at left). The More category has the most listings, and it includes an Ultrascope, an Air Data Computer, and an Omni Drive Propulsion — as examples.
The Wevolver blog features projects that are ecologically brilliant and practical, such as a quiet pop-up “Sunzilla” solar powered generator, a real time water recycling “Showerloop” (see photo below) that can utilize your laser cutting or CNC skills upon installation, and I have to mention the self-contained Reservoir Planters. These are grow boxes that use half the soil and one-fifth the water to grow food. Genius! If Wevolver’s presence leads to projects like these, who can argue with it — for profit or not for profit?
Check out the inspirational, attractive, and user-friendly Wevolver site today, and get on board with the folks at SXSW who recognize the potential in the next generation of democratic and open source sharing in hardware technology. You won’t be sorry you did. Discuss in the Wevolver Wins 3-DIY Award forum over at 3DPB.com.