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The gateway to online resources and design support for engineers, powered by RS ComponentsAllied

Open Source



Open source is a way of providing free access to hardware designs, source code and the accompanying documentation, and provides a framework for collaborating on projects..

Why Open Source?

You could publish design materials and software and simply state that people are free to use it as they wish, but even though this may seem straightforward enough it can lead to misunderstandings and legal uncertainty for both parties.

To find out more see the knowledge item: Why open source? 

Open Source Defined

For something to be open source it's not as simple as sharing the design or source code. For example, you cannot discriminate against use in a commercial context. To find out more see:

The simple answer is to use recognised open source licences.

Note: the NC variants of Creative Commons licences stipulate no commercial use, so while they may be open in a sense, a project that uses them is not regarded as being open source.

Hardware & Software

Many projects have hardware and software elements, providing documentation such as a schematic diagram, PCB layout, bill of materials (BOM) and assembly instructions, along with the source code for microcontroller firmware.

Licences tend to be best suited to use with either hardware or software, and it generally doesn't make sense to use the same licence with both.

To find out more about the different types of licences see the knowledge items:


The DesignSpark Open Source forums are a great place to discuss projects, tools, best practices and licensing.


Open Knowledge

An organisation founded upon open principles, with work including campaigning for the opening of data sets and building tools facilitating the use of such data. This post will take a brief look at examples of this work, as well as some of their recent events.


Find out more

User Groups


An Arduino workshop at Noisebridge (© Mitch Altman, CC BY SA 2.0)

User groups provide an excellent way of finding out about the latest developments in open source.

Linux User Groups (LUGs) are rarely constrained to Linux alone and tend to cover a much wider range of topics related to open source software.

Hackerspaces provide a physical space where people with a common interest in technology can meet, collaborate and gain access to tools and equipment that they may not own themselves. Open source software and hardware, e.g. Arduino, feature heavily at hackerspaces, which often host workshops and user groups.

Open Source Hardware



Arduino ZERO Pro

Arduino ZERO Pro...

RS Number : 8659004
Buy from RS


Arduino Yun Mini

Arduino Yun Mini...

RS Number : 8659007
Buy from RS


Parallella Development Board - Zynq + Epiphany III

Parallella Development Board - Zynq + Epiphany III...

RS Number : 8194709
Buy from RS


BeagleBone Black, Revision C

BeagleBone Black, Revision C...

RS Number : 7753805
Buy from RS


Beaglebone ARM Cortex A8

Beaglebone ARM Cortex A8...

RS Number : 7588982
Buy from RS


chipKIT Uno32 Development Board

chipKIT Uno32 Development Board...

RS Number : 7377956
Buy from RS

Articles about Open Source Applications and Projects


OpenTRV - Saving Energy via the Internet o…

RS Product

The OpenTRV open source project that I lead aims to slice 10% off the UK's entire carbon footprint (…

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The Arduino Yun Mini - Review and applicat…

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A review the Arduino Yun Mini and a useful HackSpace Project…

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Software-defined Radio on a Shoestring…

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Software-defined radio (SDR) holds incredible promise for the future of communications …

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Open Source Energy-efficient and Renewable…

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Open source techniques are being employed in the development and provision of access to an increasin…

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An Ionisation Chamber Shield for OpenRelie…

RS Product

Based on a simple ionisation chamber, initial testing used a bank of batteries for the bias power su…

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A Treacle Tin Radiation Detector…

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The OpenRelief project is building “open, modular information solutions for disaster relief”, and as…

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DesignShare is a collection of open source projects posted by our DesignSpark members and partners.


Open Source in the Forum