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How 3D Printer Maker Aleph Objects Pushes the Open Source Envelope 51

Posted by timothy
from the catch-us-if-you-can dept.
Lemeowski (3017099) writes "In a time where there's a 'gold rush' for 3D printing patents, there's one company that's doing everything it can to keep its 3D printers as open as possible. Jeff Moe, CEO of Aleph Objects, said in an interview with Opensource.com that his company's strategy is 'to not patent anything, but to establish prior art as soon as we can. So when we develop things we try to push it out there as soon as possible and hope to establish prior art if there isn't prior art already. That allows us to develop a lot more quickly.' The company makes the Lulzbot 3D printers, and goes to the extreme of publishing every last detail about its printers, Moe said, including syncing its internal file system that it uses to share files on the development of the machine to the public every hour so you can see what they're doing."
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How 3D Printer Maker Aleph Objects Pushes the Open Source Envelope

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  • More please! (Score:4, Informative)

    by sixoh1 (996418) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:28AM (#46574257) Homepage

    It certainly helps Aleph that the original FDM patent has expired so at least they aren't under immediate assault. On the other hand it is worrisome that they have to think so hard about the "prior art" aspect - is that really what the open source actions is about? If so I'm skeptical that this is a valid solution since the current regime of patentability (I'm looking at you software patents) means there is plenty of danger for them in the dependent/follow-on patents that Stratasys has filed. Lots of necessary and related improvements to the FFF/FDM process are "obvious" if you are building a machine to be useful for additive manufacturing, but USPTO does not use that approach to determining patentability. The worse bit is that if one takes the time to actually dig into the PTO database looking for other's patents, and trying to "work around" - you might be open to contributory infringement (at least stateside), so most folks actively ignore the PTO database to prevent such skeletons. That means LESS information sharing rather than more...

    On the gripping hand, I'm happy to see Aleph using the lessons of the software world as a viable business model - forget the 3D printer part. All electronics hardware businesses should be able to follow this model if they are willing - the end result for human productivity, creativity and technological advancement seems inevitable. Assuming Patents are somehow overcome as an obstacle (and for example here we can assume that BRICS nations will take up the flags if US based companies like Aleph are strangled by patents), what else stands in the way of getting more hardware companies to act like Aleph?

    My suspicion, having worked in electronics manufacturing for 20+ years is that hardware companies are mostly run by old-line (80s and 90s era) engineers, who cling to privacy, NDAs, trade-secret, etc. by force of habit and comfort. Having spent years coaching my last company about the benefits of open-source (both hardware and software) to naught, I'm betting we won't see more of these kinds of firms until more CEOs die and retire...

  • The Basement (Score:5, Informative)

    by Yeb (7194) <moe AT alephobjects DOT com> on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @12:53PM (#46575065) Homepage

    NotDrWho,

    We are definitely not working in our basement, though we did start in mine 3+ years ago. Gizmag visited our current facility recently. You can check out their tour here:

    http://www.gizmag.com/tour-ale... [gizmag.com]

    We definitely pay salaries too. In fact, we're set up with a Professional Employers Organization, Insperity. We offer healthcare to 22 employees, along with the other standard benefits.

    We're not (all) kids either. My slashdot account is getting close to 18 years old even. ;) Our staff, advisors, and board of directors includes people with their signature on Mars for components they designed, the former Director of Engineering of Seagate (wrap your mind around the complexity of that for a minute), a major former HP exec responsible for $18 billion/year, the former Director of Finance of Digital Globe (Google Maps), and the chair of the Debian Technical Committee.

    Also, our patent attorney has won billion dollar (with a "B") patent cases. He's no slouch. :) Plus we work with EFF, Harvard Cyberlaw, Public Knowledge, and other groups to push back against patents in 3D printing and patents in general.

    I've spoken about it at length with our US Congressman Jared Polis (he invited me to a patent workshop too) and two of his potential rivals in November. I spoke briefly about it with US Senator Michael Bennet when he visited. So we're working on it at the political layer too.

    Just sayin'...

    -Jeff Moe, Aleph Objects, Inc. CEO

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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