Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. In this sharing economy era of open software and open hardware, you might say it’s just another overhyped term. But I bet any startup or founder can argue otherwise. Communication and exchange, as general markers of joint processes, can turn into quite a problem for any team, especially when it comes to complex and complementary workstreams. Let alone hardware building.
Designing and reviewing a product takes a good deal of mutual effort, so the idea of online-enabled hardware collaboration is, admit it, quite tempting. Think of GitHub, BaseCamp, Podio,Trello, or any other online environment. Now imagine one of these tools specially tailored for hardware teams and projects.
I thought I’d save you some time and introduce you to a list (in random order) of the friendliest, easy-to-use, and well-equipped platforms made by hardware makers for hardware makers.
They’re not just the engineering equivalent of GitHub, but a fully-equipped, start-to-finish environment for hardware ventures. Teams can draw schematics, layout PCBs and review designs together. Everything runs in the browser, so no installation needed; all real-time, collaborative work.
Schematics instantly sync with layout. What’s more, it’s all intuitive and will not take you long to figure out how to use it.
Here is a summary of the design benefits you can get:
Now, that’s a true collaborative environment. It’s made to encompass managing your team workflows and storing your files, as well as helping out with tracking issues. Moreover, Knowable provides you with a file viewer for the most common hardware-specific formats – .stl, .obj or .svg, so that you can comment over a design while checking it out.
The team’s vision to create a community resulted in a special section where you can showcase your work, get feedback, look for other projects to collaborate on, or even scout for the makers you need for your project. One can also join Knowable’s social network, Polymer, especially made for product designers, makers and engineers to connect.
Their take on collaborative hardware is sure worth a read!
Made in Berlin!
It’s an open hardware platform, which grants you access to management & rapid prototyping, open translation for hardware documentation, and open hardware data analysis. Let me borrow their own definition: ‘Years of research, hardware experiments and challenges in remote collaboration inspired the invention of Qodemo. The best of GIT, Wikipedia and your productivity apps, in one ecosystem.’
Here’s what you will get:
Still to launch their project tools, though, so the dashboard interface and goodies are not explorable yet. We anticipate!
Made in Europe, moved to Boston.
HWtrek Hub is a project development tool for consumer hardware makers. Unlike the abovementioned environments, and apart from being a project development site, the Hub brings together team members and experts of HWTrek.
As part of HWTrek’s general startup support, the Hub has an extra feature included in the collaboration process: they offer to help you get all the way to the market through manufacturing or even sales and marketing.
Made in Taiwan!
Not quite the full-team environment, but certainly the engineers’ place to be. So if your company has multiples engineers who need to pull a project together, ‘GrabCad offers a full set of file management and collaboration tools to ensure that engineers and partners can find the right CAD file, avoid duplicate work, and get input from everyone involved’.
Here’s just a small example of what you can do:
Made in Estonia, moved to Boston.
UPDATE: Here’s a couple more collaborative tools, discovered later on:
Alright, let’s roll up the sleeves and start exploring. Find out which environment works best for your startup.
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