Fab lab

A fab lab (fabrication laboratory) is a small-scale workshop offering open access to (personal) digital fabrication, a digital workshop which can be used by the public to create transform creative ideas into tangible prototypes.

A FabLab comprises digitally controlled machines like a laser cutter, CNC-router, a 3D printer, vinyl cutter and electronics with the aim to make “almost anything”.

They define a FabLab in their own words as “a technical prototyping platform for innovation and invention, providing stimulus for local entrepreneurship. It is also a platform for learning and innovation: a place to play, to create, to learn, to mentor, to invent.

FabLab form a worldwide community that shares knowledge and techniques. Which fosters innovation.

A Makerspace may call itself a FabLab is it adheres to the Fab Charter. FabLab is a community, not a franchise.

As per definition open for everybody: youth, students, researchers, entrepreneurs, starting businesses, small and medium enterprises and of university faculty. They all get support from FabLab coaches and from the international FabLab community.

The three qualities and requirements listed below creates a Fab Lab.

  1. Public access : A Fab Lab is about democratizing access to the tools for personal expression and invention. So, a Fab Lab must be open to the public for free or in-kind service/barter at least part of the time each week, that’s essential.
  2. Support staff and technicians available to train the general public about the machines and equipment that they possess.
  3. Collaboration : Fab Labs have to share a common set of tools and processes. The idea is that all the labs can share knowledge, designs, and collaborate.

Fab Labs typically include:

  • A laser cutter that makes 2D and 3D structures
  • A 3D printer
  • A high-resolution CNC milling machine that makes circuit boards, precision parts, and molds for casting
  • A suite of electronic components and programming tools for low-cost, high-speed microcontrollers and on-site rapid circuit prototyping.

These machines are too small to be able to work with metals, but are perfect for wood, plastics, paper, cardboard, etc.

To successfully use the FabLab, one must follow:

  • Decide what you want: for instance, to turn into reality anything from your university project or based on your own idea; to receive some assistance with equipment / software provided in the FabLab; to learn how to use a machine and so on.
  • Contact one of our staff member, either by e-mail or personally in the FabLab building Agree on a convenient time for both parties, and be precise with your requirements/expectations Provide the raw material for your case – we can help when related to one of the machines, for instance which certified material can be used in each of them
  • Be on time and be prepared for the frustration of failures and joy of small accomplishments – remember that making and prototyping is a VERY iterative process, with lots of fails, trials and errors. Do not come in last minute expecting a magic 3D printing, it will not happen.

Additionally, the FabLab counters two contradictory trends that are dangerous in a 21st century world. On the one hand, the FabLab is well suited to reach people who became not any more or not at all interested in technology during the past years, e.g. young men who rather study business administration or law instead of technology, or young women who still are not too interested in engineering even if in these jobs require more brain than physical work these days.

Die-hard techies, on the other hand, are systematically encouraged to make use of the latest insights of creativity and innovation research: In the Fablab, there is the stimulating power of a diverse community (power of diversity), there is the need to interact with the users of a new technology at an early stage because they are present at a Fablab from the start, and there is the open invitation to use methods and procedures that have been proven successful in R&D processes.

FabLab have proven successful all over the world; they have spread quickly and sustainably. Every Fablab builds on the experience of the other labs. Within the network of FabLabs, the exchange on business model, programs, and networking is at least as important as technical issues.