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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?

The hardware is freely loaned to people in exchange for contributing something that would help the project grow and evolve. Where the contribution can be of any form including technical, nontechnical, tutorial writing, video preparation, helping with fundraising, design, assembly, writing about your project, or providing any other kind of help. After a user no longer needs FlowIO, they are expected to return it or to pass it on freely to someone else who has also agreed to abide by the same expectations of contributing and sharing. 

Initially, while the number of FlowIO devices in existence is still very limited, only a small number of people we approve will receive a FlowIO 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 FlowIO, click the Request button below and write a short proposal. Please note that the number of FlowIO kits we can give is entirely dependent on the funding we receive from donations and our available time to assemble them, so we can't make any predictions about how many devices we can provide. In the past several months, we have averaged about 2 kits per month.


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 benefit from 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.

If you are using FlowIO in a project, you must provide appropriate attribution credit, by citing this paper in academic publications, or by citing the FlowIO creator's name with a link to this website in the case of other articles or videos. Example: FlowIO Platform by Ali Shtarbanov, www.softrobotics.io


What would it cost me to make FlowIO by myself?

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 several different companies. Finally, the cost of labor can be very significant, as the labor can take several days for part preparation, 3D printing, assembly, and testing.

If you are making just a single FlowIO device, then the cost of parts for all the modules will be in the high hundreds of US dollars.

if making 10 or more FlowIO devices, the per-device-cost of parts would be in the low hundreds of US dollars due to economies of scale. These estimates do not include labor costs, which will be 30-40 hours per kit, but presumably, you will do that yourself. The complete bill of materials 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 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. 

Do this first before sending a request

Listed below are all the locations where FlowIO devices (or parts) have already been sent. If any of those is in close proximity to you, we can connect you with the user close to you who has the FlowIO device. Then, you may be able to borrow it from them directly, or at least do an on-site test to determine whether it will be suitable for your needs. See the locations on a map.

FlowIO kits provided to date:
  • (1) Atlas Institute at UC Boulder, USA
  • (1) Cornell University, Hybrid Body Lab  USA
  • (1) Cornell University, HRC^2 Lab  USA
  • (1) De Vinci Innovation Center, France
  • (1) ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • (1) Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, Germany
  • (2) Harvard Graduate School Of Design, USA
  • (1) Imperial College, UK
  • (18) KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
  • (1) Humanitas University, Italy
  • (1) MIT School of Architecture, USA
  • (1) MIT Media Lab,  USA 
  • (5) MIT Edgerton Center,  USA 
  • (1) University of Delaware, USA
  • (1) University of Minnesota, USA
  • (2) Uppsala University, Sweden
  • (1) Wageningen University & Research, Netherlands
  • (1) Software Developer from Arlington MA, USA
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Parts sent to users to assemble their own FlowIO devices at:
  • (1) Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto, Portugal
  • (1) Western Michigan University, USA
  • (1) Lehigh University, USA
  • (1) RWTH Aachen University, Germany
  • (1) Stanford University, USA
  • (1) University College London, UK
  • (1) University of Manchester, UK
  • (1) Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA
  • (3) Toyota Research Institute, USA
  • (1) Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute, China
  • (2) University of Southern California, USA
  • (1) University of Chicago, USA
  • (1) Berkeley University, USA
  • (1) MIT, Mechanical Engineering,  USA
  • (4) Monash University , Australia
  • (12) ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • (1) Harvard GSD, USA
(Parts, Sep.2021)
(Gerbers, Nov.2021)
(Parts, Jul.2022)
(Parts, Jun.2021)
(PCBs, Nov.2021)
(PCBs, Dec.2021)
(PCBs, Dec.2021)
(PCBs, Aug.2021)
(Kit, May.2022)
(Gerbers, Jun.2022)
(PCBs, Jun.2022)
(PCBs, Jun.2022)
(Kit, Jun 2022)
(Kit, Jun 2022)
(PCBs, Jun.2022)
(PCBs, Jun.2022)
(Kit, Jul.2022)
Last updated: Jul 17, 2022

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