I’ve been using open source software at work since the late 80s and have spent the past couple of years experimenting with Arduino, Reprap, Makerbot, and I’m getting involved with early lasersaur development.
It’s my strong opinion that over the next year open source hardware will really start making an impact in the local and small-scale fabrication space. While there are plenty of shops using EMC2 in large-scale fabrication, the learning curve is steep and EMC2 is focused on subtractive machining operations. There are no fundamental patents on things like mills or lathes to deal with, but a lot of the control circuits and interfaces used are proprietary or at least closed source.
With lasersaur using grbl, Makerbot using (and supporting) ReplicatorG, and the increase of quality tools like Inkscape and OpenSCAD I think we’re finally seeing small-scale manufacturing with a toolchain almost entirely made of open source hardware and software. (I’m not going to wade into the argument about whether or not it’s “real” open source if you’re still buying steppers or power supplies or other COTS items. :-)
In order to help move this process along, I’ve created a new mailing list, opensourcefab, and am working on a wiki/web forum as well.
My goal for this list (and for the forum that will soon go online) is to create a space for those of us who want to use these tools for serious fabrication. Maybe you make/sell model railroad components or build big skeery robots or work at an in-house shop making spares but we’re all interested in the same thing — using open source tools in a production environment.