40Fires.org is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to encourage open sourced manufacturing across the world. The first product of the Foundation is the Hyrban, an electric/fuel cell powered vehicle which is currently in prototype. Detailed plans for the main sections of the car will eventually be available under an open source license to allow all-comers to deliver their own derivative products as needed.
The idea of open source hardware is of course not new, but the vision of the people at 40Fires is pioneering in its detail. Rather than just releasing an ‘open’ product and leaving it at that, it’s clear the founders are keen to establish a completely open process for developing not just cars, but other ecological products which would benefit from community participation.
We particularly like their pragmatic approach which incorporates all forms of sustainability in design, from the consideration of ‘public good’ patents to the use of existing open technology such as Arduino and beyond. If there is really going to be a sustainable future, it needs to be real as well as ecologically sound, and ignoring the role of different traditional processes is not a way to make things move forward faster. Co-operation is the key.
The shortlist for this section ranged from the massive industrial scale of the Envion Oil Generator which can take raw plastic and convert it into petroleum products, to the smaller scale but just as valuable Terra Cycle organisation which aims to recycle our garbage into genuinely useful products suitable for everyday use. We were also very taken with the Good Guide website, a very useful way of keeping tabs on the good and bad components of our shopping list, while the unquestionable potential of 3D printers to help us all consume less, is a fabulous idea whose time has perhaps not yet fully materialised.
The founders of 40 Fires were inspired by the open source software movement which took off in the 1990s. Organisations such as Apache and Linux proved that world-beating products can be made available at no or low cost for the benefit of all through harnessing the energy and goodwill of collaborators around the world. Wikipedia and the Human Genome project have also shown what is possible through collaboration.