Tour de Fablab

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1 Introduction

This page will include a tour of fab lab related stuff.

For the moment, this is a quickly put together list of pointers for showing in a class. I should add some pictures and stories ...

- Daniel K. Schneider October 2011.

See also:

2 Academic impulse

2.1 Neil Gershenfeld (M.I.T.) - How to make almost everything

The MIT FabLab is considered to be the first fablab. Of course, there is a lot of prior stuff, but this lab did two things: (1) Show that you can build a lot within a high tech lab and (2) sponsor several FabLabs in other places, in particular in the third world.

2.2 The RepRap project

  • RepRap, a British project, is short for Replicating Rapid-prototyper, which are now in its third generation ("Mendel" design). These 3D printers build the parts up in layers of plastics. They can be assembled from parts bought in various places. Several commercial designs are also derived from these designs. The latter are available both as kits and fully assembled
  • See 3D printing

While the FabLab movement is mostly using standard low-end (or sometimes high-end) industrial hardware, the RepRap project had its highest impact in both "do-it-yourself" communities, hackers in the original senses of the word, i.e. Hacker (hobbyist) or Hacker (programmer subculture), and a wider public. “Much of this work was driven by and targeted to DIY/enthusiast/early adopter communities, with links to both the academic and hacker communities.” (Wikipedia (nov 2011).

2.3 Cornell's fabricator

Researchers and students at Cornell University. In a project called [ Fab@Home] (after Gershenfeld’s Fab Lab idea), researchers build a microwave-oven-sized 3D printer they called a “fabber.” Anyone can put a fabber together for a few hundred dollars. (Source: Rapid prototyping for the masses by Leslie Gordon)

Like the British RepRap probject, this project led to commercial products and the fabathome online community.

2.4 Any convergence ?

The RepRap project didn't have any relation to the fab lab movement and probably still doesn't have much. However, 3D printers are now part of most fab labs. The official MIT Fab lab 2.0 specification includes a commercial model. That makes sense, since the focus of fab labs is not auto-replication but fabrication.

3 Some Fab labs

Some contrasted examples

4 Not FabLabs, but ....

4.1 Digital design and fabrication in schools

Quote (oct 2011): “The Digital Design and Technology Programme, which is funded by the Department for Education (DfE), previously the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) grows out of and builds on the two major curriculum development projects, CAD/CAM in Schools and the Electronics in Schools Strategy. Over the better part of a decade, these two programmes have provided specialist in-service training in CAD/CAM and electronics for more than 14,000 teachers.”

4.2 Hacker Spaces

Hackerspaces have similar goals in mind as FabLabs, i.e. they bring together people who like to create things. E.g the Hackerspaces wiki defines hackerspaces, as “community-operated physical places, where people can meet and work on their projects.”. The difference is that hacker space rather work with computers and electronics, don't own (somewhat) expensive fabrication machinery and are rather grass-root movements, i.e. not financed by universities or other official bodies.

According to Wikipedia (10/2014), A hackerspace (also referred to as a hacklab, makerspace or hackspace) is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art; can meet, socialize and collaborate.

In general, hackerspaces function as centers for peer learning and knowledge sharing, in the form of workshops, presentations, and lectures. They usually also offer social activities for their members, such as game nights and parties. (Wikipedia)


4.3 Makerspaces and TechShops

These are initiatives in the "Do it yourself/"bricolage" tradition, but strongly geared towards digital design. They may operate like FabLabs or Hackerspaces, but also may be very different. E.g. TechShops provide industry-strength machinery.

Makerspaces are also tied to Make Magazine

Now imagine a long tail of things: physical goods created with the web's digital innovation model. That's the maker movement.(Quote from Wired Magazine)

4.4 Public Labs

Communities where you can learn how to investigate environmental concerns. Using inexpensive DIY techniques, change how people see the world in environmental, social, and political terms.

4.5 Open Wetlabs

5 Fab lab communities

Community web sites
Conferences