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Techniques & Tools Technology

Free Innovation Accelerator!

Ever finished your meal at a fancy restaurant and realized that you’ve forgotten your wallet? I had that same sinking feeling when I saw the price of our first round of heat exchanger prototypes. Our heat exchangers use plastic instead of metal and make up for their relatively weak thermal conductivity with very thin layers between microchannels. The numerical simulations were promising so we wanted to optimize the design and verify experimentally. Sadly, we realized that it was impossible to conduct the comprehensive study needed to drive the innovative technology to market at the prices quoted. Buying a commercial laser welding system was out of the question (budget!) and designing one from scratch was entirely unacceptable (time!). We turned to the free and open source hardware (FOSH) community for a solution. FOSH is publicly available hardware with designs that can be studied, modified, distributed, fabricated, or even commercialized, which I covered in greater detail in the first issue of this magazine.

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About the Author

Joshua M. Pearce

Joshua Pearce received his PhD in Materials Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. He is currently an Associate Professor cross-appointed in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering and in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the Michigan Technological University where he runs the Open Sustainability Technology Research Group. “My research concentrates on the use of open source appropriate technology to find collaborative solutions to problems in sustainability and spans areas of electronic device physics and materials engineering of solar photovoltaic cells, but also includes scientific hardware cost annihilation using open-source methods.”

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