Value of open source hardware?

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by KW4TI, Nov 3, 2019.

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  1. KW4TI

    KW4TI Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have been working on a VNA that is similar to the NanoVNA for about a year and a half. I started the design because edy555 at the time apparently had not worked on the design for some time and had seemingly abandoned it. Recently a Chinese amateur named hugen has done a great thing for the community and has offered the NanoVNA as a pre-built unit for very cheaply (less than $50 in many places). I think this is great, but one of my concerns is that the design is not really fully open hardware, as while the software is open, to reproduce the hardware on would have to design a PCB. My project has fully open hardware and software, including Kicad files and gerbers, so that someone in theory should be able to fully reproduce the design themselves and even sell a duplicate of what I have designed.

    I guess the question I have is that, with such a low price for a unit, does anyone really care about having open hardware? Because of all of the variations in quality and performance between different NanoVNA units bought from various sources, I think there still is some value to having a design that has construction details that are as complete as possible, and which is designed to still be readily hand-assembled. I am also working to have the design commercially available, hopefully for a low cost, however, my principal goal has been to ensure that the design is as open as possible, and furthermore uses parts that are as common as possible so that the design has longevity and can continue to be used. The main two chips that may be hard to get in the future are the SI5351A and SA612, but these are hard to avoid using. The design can be used with or without a display through USB/serial (in case the display is not available) and even without the on-board microcontroller as all signals are broken out into a connector so they may be controlled externally. The command-line interface available over serial connection is designed for human readable input and output so in principle no software rather than a terminal is required, and the output may be pasted directly into a spreadsheet because it can be output in comma-separated-values format if plotting is desired.

    Is cost the only thing that matters to hams for the most part, or is there any value in openness, reproducibility, and longevity? I like working on the VNA regardless, but it would be interesting to know if anyone else considers these factors.


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