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FlowIO is Creative Commons Hardware...

...and is provided FREE of charge to approved users


Creative Commons Hardware

FlowIO transcends beyond open source. Not only are all the designs open and freely available, but the actual physical hardware itself is provided free of charge, and is treated as a good belonging to the commons just like the water in the ocean.  By providing FlowIO as a common good, we neither sell nor allow others to sell the device itself. And we only allow free distribution of the hardware. We licensed FlowIO under the NonCommercial Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), but we do allow certain kinds of commercial use of FlowIO that don't involve sale of the device itself. 


Who can get a free FlowIO device?

Initially, while the number of FlowIO devices in existence is still very limited, only a small number of people we approve will be able to obtain a free device. More likely to be approved are those people / projects who can do amazing things with FlowIO, and who would reciprocally help with the evolution of FlowIO, this website, and our mission of democratizing access to innovation opportunities. As the number of FlowIO devices in circulation grows with time, it would become increasingly easier for more people to obtain a device. Additionally, we believe that with time, there would be more people from the community who can build and share freely this platform with others. With time, our goal is to gradually remove ourselves from the loop of making these devices, and serve as enablers of the evolution, growth, and free exchange of these and other devices between users. This website will serve as the central marketplace that can facilitate the sharing and free exchange of FlowIO and other platforms we are developing.


To request a free FlowIO, you can click the Request button below. Please note that the number of devices we can give for free is entirely dependent on the total funding we receive from donations, so we can't make any predictions about how many devices we can distribute freely. 


Are there restrictions to using FlowIO?

We wanted to give you the right and freedom to do almost anything with FlowIO and even give you access to the design files. We want you to be able to use, modify, augment, make your own, and also be able to share freely FlowIO or any derivative works. That's why we have licensed this work under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) We only ask that you give appropriate attribution credit* and that if you make some improvements to FlowIO, then share them freely with the community. And finally, if you want to use this work or any content on this website commercially, you must first obtain a permission, because the license does not allow commercial use without permission.

We also ask that whenever you are completely done with using FlowIO, whether you obtained it from us or you made it yourself, to send it to someone else who needs it for a project. Please read our philosophy of Creative Commons Hardware to understand why we ask for this.

* For attribution, you can cite this paper, or you can share the creator's name and a link to this website.


What is the actual cost of the hardware?

There are several interchangeable modules that comprise the FlowIO hardware. And your application may require one subset of modules, while someone else's application may require a different subset of modules. And new modules are now being developed as well to cover even broader range of sensing and actuation needs. So the cost can vary significantly depending on what modules one needs. Additionally, the price of each part that goes inside FlowIO modules varies depending on the order quantity. Shipping costs are also a major expense, because the parts come from many different supplies. And finally, the cost of labor can be very significant, as the labor can take several days for part preparation, 3D printing support removal, assembly, and testing.

If you are making just one FlowIO device by yourself, then the cost of part for all the modules will be in the high hundreds of US dollars. But if making 5, 10, or more devices, the per-device-cost would be in the low hundreds of US dollars due to economies of scale. The complete bill of materials with links to the order pages for all components can be found in the Make FlowIO tutorial series.


How would this distribution model work in practice?

Unlike a business model which aims to maximize profit and grow the number of sales, the hardware of the commons model works in completely the opposite way. We will be making and freely distributing only as many devices as we have resources for. And by also sharing all the hardware and software designs freely, and providing detailed instructions on how to replicate this platform, we want to enable others to be able to make and share the physical artifact with others also. With time, we will gradually transition our role from makers and distributors of this platform into facilitators of its exchange between other makers and users.

Whether this model would actually work or not is part of what we wish to learn by trying it out in the real world. And if successful, we want to encourage other individuals and institutions to follow our lead and do the same, not only for the case of the FlowIO, but also for other hardware platforms and creative tools they may develop in any creative domain. This is ultimately how we hope to achieve, even with few resources, our mission of making creative opportunities for technological innovation and creative exploration more accessible for all. 

If you are interested in supporting this effort and the broader mission, consider becoming a contributor. We are always looking for volunteers who can help with hardware & software development, feedback, prototyping new application scenarios and projects examples, writing documentation and tutorials, engaging with other users, and more.  Use the buttons below to get involved, post on the forums, or request a FlowIO device. 

21 FlowIO kits given to date and currently in use at:
Sent on:
  • (1) Cornell University, USA
  • (1) De Vinci Innovation Center, France
  • (1) ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • (1) Harvard Graduate School Of Design, USA
  • (1) Imperial College, UK
  • (1) Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto, Portugal
  • (2) KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
  • (1) Lehigh University, USA
  • (1) Liceo Scientifico, Italy
  • (1) MIT Media Lab,  USA 
  • (1) RWTH Aachen University, Germany
  • (1) Stanford University, USA
  • (1) University College London, UK
  • (1) University of Delaware, USA
  • (1) University of Manchester, UK
  • (1) University of Minnesota, USA
  • (2) Uppsala University, Sweden
  • (1) Wageningen University & Research, Netherlands
  • (1) Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA
See on a map where current FlowIO users are located
Last updated: Dec. 3, 2021

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