This piece was originally published in Make: Magazine as a part of an ongoing series about Open Hardware.
The Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) runs a free program that allows creators to certify that their hardware complies with the community definition of open source hardware. Whenever you see the certification logo, you know that the certified hardware meets this standard.
The certification site includes a full list of all of the certified open source hardware. Here is all of the hardware that was certified in April, which comes from the United States, Azerbaijan, India, Croatia, Germany, Poland, and Spain.
The OSHW community had been off to a strong start in 2020 with 54 projects certified in Q1. After February, we predicted here on Makezine.com that the certification program was on track for its strongest year ever. The surge in April has far surpassed our expectations with a total of 269 total projects certified last month alone, nearly twice that of 2019 in just one month.
Adafruit (All The Things)
Open Hardware leader Adafruit has dedicated a massive amount of time and effort towards certifying their back catalog of products. Hundreds have already passed certification at the time of writing this. We colloquially dubbed last month “Adafruit April” because of the sheer number of projects. In an interview with OSHdata, Founder Limor Fried takes us behind the scenes:
“Adafruit had certified some boards in the past to help support the effort. The barrier for certification for us was time. For us, the question was – do we stop everything and try to certify hundreds of boards? Or do we keep making open-source hardware? We choose to keep making open-source hardware with a goal to get it certified eventually, and/or wait for an API to automate the certification,” Fried explains.
Then COVID-19 happened. Adafruit has been running for 60+ days with no illnesses, no layoffs, no furlough, and no cut hours. They continued operations (after being deemed an essential business in NYC by Executive Order 202.6). Despite being busier than ever, this was also a time for reflection.
“It did occur to us that while our hardware is and always will be open-source, it was not certified. In March with the death rate increasing each day, as grim as it sounds, it was unclear what could happen to any of us in NYC or Adafruit. What is the best thing we can do for our community?” she and the team asked themselves.
That’s when Adafruit team members stepped up to take on the Herculean effort of submitting and certifying hundreds of products.
“We’re not going to make as much hardware during this time… And while some of the team was diverted for critical needs, we decided to spend time putting the hardware through the certification process so it’s clear our intentions for our hardware, it’s open source, forever, certified, no matter what. Dylan on our team led this effort and at this time 5/4/2020, Adafruit has certified 261 boards, with more to come, Adafruit is now 36.76% of all certified hardware. The phrase ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ was applied here to continue to be a good cause, a good company, and give all we can in every way.”
It’s impractical to go into detail about each of these projects — there are too many and this is but a simple blog post. Instead, we’d like to offer perspective on one of the certified projects: the Adafruit Trinket M0 (US000239). It’s a tiny microcontroller board built around the Atmel ATSAMD21 for use with CircuitPython and Arduino IDE. This small, affordable, and powerful platform is a great way to add interactivity to just about any project. For some context, we spoke with a pro.
“The trinket is used in all sorts of projects, and its certification means that it now becomes easier to fully certify the projects that use it.” OSHWA Board Member and Developer Advocate at Open Robotics Katherine Scott explained. “Slowly as the open hardware movement grows, and as more groups certify their works, it becomes much easier to build and verify completely open hardware projects.”
This American company’s contributions represent an important type of program growth. These are products made by a respected company that met the Open Source Hardware definition, but that had not been certified yet due to process and resource constraints.
With these projects now moving under the certification umbrella, it suggests OSHWA’s certification program is gaining more traction in the community. Meanwhile OSHWA is raising funds to support continued investment in the certification infrastructure itself, building an API to make it easier and less resource-intensive to certify projects in the future.
The graph above represents a snapshot of when Manhattan-based Adafruit passed Plovdiv-based Olimex as the single largest certifying organization of Open Source Hardware in the world. Note that many additional projects have since been certified. Browse Adafruit’s certified Open Hardware here.
Penguino Feather SAMR34 LoRa Dev-Board
Congratulations to Open Hardware developer and maker Orkhan AmirAslan and MakerTronika labs! The Penguino Feather SAMR34 LoRa Dev-Board is the first-ever project certified from Azerbaijan. This IoT rapid prototyping platform is for LoRa end-node applications. It’s a feature rich hardware project built in an Adafruit Feather form-factor. You can pick a Penguino Feather up on Tindie here.
HealthyPi v4 – Unplugged
Bengaluru-based ProtoCentral certified their HealthyPi v4 – Unplugged, which was successfully crowd-funded on CrowdSupply (and the HealthyPi is still available for purchase). This successful project is a wireless, wearable, open source vital signs monitor powered by ESP32. With all the required equipment, it can measure electrocardiogram (ECG) data, heart rate, heart-rate variability, respiration (based on an impedance pneumograph), pulse oximetry (SPO₂), and body temperature.
As the name implies, it’s the fourth version of what is now a well-established product by a respected company in the OSHW community. To learn more about this Indian company and open medical instrumentation, check out ProtoCentral CEO Ashwin Whitchurch’s talk at Open Hardware Summit 2016.
RTE RPI and MUXPI
Polish company 3mdeb is back with two new certifications, expanding on their first-ever certification with the RTE in March. RTE RPI is a hat designed for Raspberry Pi boards with standard 40-pin GPIO headers running a specially crafted Linux distribution using the Yocto Project.
MuxPi is an open hardware and software board designed to aid in automating tasks on physical devices. In particular, it’s for testing embedded systems, automatic software installation, or flashing and automation during development. The company boasts expertise in Linux and Coreboot development, so it’s the kind of project that emerging Linux hardware computer vendors may find interesting.
Speaking of Linux computers, an ambitious project from Berlin-based MNT Research GmbH called the MNT Reform (DIY Laptop) was just certified. This is an open source laptop (OSHWA UID: DE000017) is made for hacking, customization, and privacy, and can be made with a 3D printer! Not stopping here, the German MNT team is working on a new version with a new design. Follow along with the community on Crowd Supply.
HHTronik from Staudt Technologies, GmbH
Last month, we covered the Craftalight here on Makezine.com. This month, the team at German company Staudt Technologies is back with a set of four certifications from HHTronik. First is a triplet of ways to learn soldering: I Learn Soldering Q.O.K., I Learn Soldering SMD Q.O.K., and I Learn Soldering SMD Q.O.K. Boost Edition. Lastly it’s time for a test: Are you and your soldering iron ready? If you’ve wondered how small you can go, take their I Can Solder challenge and get down to 01005 resistors and 0201 LEDs.
Next up is a stunning six-inch e-paper display from Croatian company TAVU d.o.o. and the team at E-Radionica. This Osijek-based team built an easy to control display, recycled from a Kindle e-reader, that you can plug a USB cable into and start programming with Arduino IDE or micropython. It boasts a low-power sleep mode and high levels of energy efficiency. And it’s all driven by an ESP32 WROVER module which boasts a dual-core microprocessor, 8 MB of RAM, 4 MB of Flash, and integrated WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE). Pictured at the top of this post, this project is fully funded but you can still place an order for the Inkplate here on Crowd Supply.
Wrapping up April is the most exquisite PCB design I’ve ever seen by Suhail P. This ATmega 32U4 microcontroller is loaded with features and can be used as a wearable development board like the Adafruit Playground Express or LilyPad, or it can be used on its own as an electronic badge. Not sure where to start? Thanks to Suhail, the PixelPad Indian project is thoroughly documented.