The power of ‚Open Source Hardware‘

3D-printers for the end consumer have been regarded by many as a small niche for geeky engineers and programmers developing in their spare time. Unfortunately it was also most widely known as a means for producing above all plastic decorations and weapons — until now. A few skilled developers recently came up with a hand prosthesis available for free to everyone and with a production cost of about 10$. Even less known maybe is, that also scientific labs already make use of open-source hardware to build and collectively improve customized lab equipment (cf. Pearce, 2012, Science, doi: 10.1126/science.1228183). It has become clear thus, that 3d-printing de facto established a new kind of interface or “boundary object” that allows to bridge finally all geographic distances in three dimensions. The implications that this has for R&D and innovation management constitute an intriguing field of research of fast growing relevance.