I’m trying out a new online service that hopes to enable makers to work together on open source hardware projects.

3D Orchard is a web service designed by three enthusiasts hoping to ignite the development of many more open source hardware projects. To that end, the service offers three features:

  • A browser-based community-style 3D CAD system that’s quite simple to use
  • A collection of 3D designs to share or modify
  • A 3D print service hookup to get any 3D model printed

Co-Founder Dan Meisner explains:

We’ve built the CAD, and now we’re trying to make it easier for people fabricate their models. We’re trying to repeat the success of the Reprap with a variety of types of printers by rallying together a community to help design them. We have created an i3 style FDM printer, the start of a delta style FDM, and we’d love to get SLA/DLP printers on there. That way, all of these machines can be remixed and improved by anyone with the Internet.

They can be combined into new machines. Imagine a public machine (like a vending machine) that has a built-in printer, and recycles plastic (into printing material) in exchange for 3D printing credits. These designs would be open source, and in one location where people anywhere can edit them for free. We think it will not only help the technology advance but it can reduce the costs, and therefore make localized manufacturing technology more accessible to the world.

The CAD system is the first feature you should try on this free service. It provides a full-sized window into which you can perform very basic 3D CAD solid modeling, like adding shapes, cutting fillets, etc. These 3D designs can be easily exported as STL for local 3D printing.

I found the interface easy to use, but it was a bit buggy and I had to reload the screen at times. However, it is definitely not “building with blocks”, as some of the more simpler 3D CAD online tools provide; it’s real, solid modeling.

The site is still in beta, so there are not a huge number of 3D models, but there are quite a few.

However, the most interesting aspect of their library is that you can easily modify them! Each public 3D model can be edited, as the repository is integrated with the CAD tool. There is a tree of the history of changes to any 3D model, so you can see how the object was constructed.

This is what makes this site a bit different from other repositories: you can actually work together on 3D models across the internet. Yes, there are pay-for services that can do this, but this one is focused on the open hardware community.

As I mentioned, the use of the service is entirely free, unless you wish to have a private area for your 3D models, in which case you will be charged USD$7 per month for that capability. But I suspect that most users will simply build their open hardware designs in public view.

Give it a try!

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Fabbaloo tracks developments in the amazing technology of 3D Printing, publishing news and analysis daily. Whether from a manufacturer’s press release, onsite coverage of events or just some crazy ideas we thought up, our material will keep you up to date.

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