Fab Labs

A Fab Lab (Fabrication Laboratory) is a workshop with a range of flexible manufacturing and prototyping tools that can be used to make “almost anything”.

The types of fabrication tools you might find in a Fab Lab include:
* Laser, plasma, vinyl and water jet cutters
* CNC machines – computer controlled mills, lathes etc
* Rapid prototypers – 3D printers, scanners
* Printed circuit board milling machines

An underlying motivation for establishing a Fab Lab lies in the idea that communities can be empowered by technology at a grassroots level. Providing access to fabrication tools can enable ways for products to be customised to suit local or individual needs in ways that are not practical or economical using current day mass production techniques.

The Fab Lab concept evolved from a class at MIT (MAS.863) pioneered by Prof. Neil Gershenfeld, named “How To Make (Almost) Anything”. The lecture notes are available via MIT OpenCourseWare:

The course provides a hands-on introduction to the resources for designing and fabricating smart systems, including CAD/CAM/CAE; NC machining, 3-D printing, injection molding, laser cutting; PCB layout and fabrication; sensors and actuators; analog instrumentation; embedded digital processing; wired and wireless communications. The course also puts emphasis on learning how to use the tools as well as understand how they work.

Above is a TedTalk given by Professor Neil Gershenfeld discussing Fab Labs.

In the past Gershenfeld has described “the shift from large-scale, expensive machine tools to personal fabrication as analogous to the evolution that began 40 years ago from room-sized mainframes to personal computers. Instead of personalizing the ability to do digital computing, we’re now able to digitize and personalize the ability to manufacture our own tools and machines.”

The Wikipedia Fab Lab entry states there are roughly 34 Fab Labs spanning 10 different countries, and details a list of some of them.

Another place you can access information about DIY community-operated physical places, where people can meet and work on projects is hackerspaces.org.

In the future, openMaterials will try and feature as many different open source fabrication tools we can that are currently being developed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *