Upverter, the fascinating open-source hardware hackers’ tool, has just launched paid accounts.

With these accounts, users can hack away at their designs away from the public eye. It works a lot like Github’s private offerings, where paying users can shield their code repositories from outside eyes, if they so choose.

Upverter won hearts as a DEMO Fall 2011 company; its blend of cloud-based collaboration and hardware-hacker focus hit the market at just the right time.

In fact, just a month before we met Upverter at DEMO, Facebook’s open source hardware lead Amir Michael told VentureBeat, “A lot of the tools [for open-source hardware design] aren’t there yet. If someone wants to make a change to one of our circuit boards, it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to get that package. The average hacker doesn’t have that.”

So, Upverter entered the scene with simple tools for garage hackers to create a better motherboard or a more efficient server.

Today, in addition to hosting open-source projects, Upverter is introducing its subscription plans (and its business model).

Other subscription plans run from the $19 monthly Hobbyist package (with space for three private projects and public collaboration) to the $199 monthly Professional package (with hosting for up to 100 private projects and both private and public collaboration features).

Also, the Early Adopter $19-per-month plan is only going to be available this week. It allows for three private hardware projects with public and private collaboration.

The Upverter team has been working its way up to an enterprise-level offering since its inception.

To date, the site hosts 3,890 hardware design projects and a library of 4,325 user-created hardware components. On average, a hardware design session on Upverter lasts around one hour and 16 minutes, and the record for longest design session goes to a hacker who spent 18 solid hours working on a project.

“Students at MIT, Stanford, RIT, the University of Waterloo, the University of Toronto, and Oregon State University (to name a handful) are using Upverter to collaborate on labs and design projects,” said Upverter co-founder Zak Homuth in an email conversation today.

“The most complex designs are greater than $100 in bill-of-material cost [and are] rapidly approaching the cost and complexity of the average cellphone,” he concluded.

In an interview a few months ago, he told us, “Open-source hardware has the same potential that open-source software did.”

“If we can change the paradigms away from single, siloed designs and towards gluing shared building blocks together (kind of like the shift software made away from statically compiled and towards shared libraries) we would change the way hardware gets designed across the board.”


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