A place where there are technological machines like 3D printing or cutting laser, opening for everybody and for free; it sounds like a utopia, isn’t it? Guess what? It exists! We called these places FabLabs: Fabrication laboratory. Developed firstly in the USA, these spaces are more and more developing in Europe and should further increase in the years to come.
Fabrication laboratory was born during the 20’s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States. The basic idea was to have an accessible and affordable make space with all the necessary technological materials for students. Then with this first FabLab, students realized that this kind of space can finally be beneficial for a lot of people: entrepreneurs, people who just want to DIY, students, and even teenagers who have a taste for the technology field. These spaces are designed to enable individuals and communities to design, prototype, and manufacture their own products. In Fablabs, the key term is learning and innovation. In these spaces, people can make any idea turn into reality with the help of technological materials. Usually, the main materials that you can find in FabLabs are a 3D printer, a laser cutter that makes 2D and 3D, computers with many software to prototype and program, a high-resolution CNC; a machine that permits to make precisions pieces with wood, metal or plastics materials and a lot of others machines which depends of every FabLabs. They can be set up in cultural structures, universities, libraries, or have their own structure. Today, there are around 1 600 FabLabs spread in around 100 countries in the world – in the United States and Europe, but also in a lot in of developing countries like India, Peru, or South Africa, for example. (Map of FabLab in the world in sources)
FabLabs are not just to create and make projects according to digital fabrication. One of the main goals of these spaces is also to «democratize access to the tools for personal expression and invention». So, free access and the opening of these spaces for everybody is very important. FabLabs are also places where people from a variety of backgrounds can meet and help each other with different projects. The notion of community is essential, they consider that in FabLabs teamwork a strength. FabLabs are more and more developed in developing countries as well because these countries are becoming aware that it can be a real way to allow people to start entrepreneurship. Firstly, it allows individuals to experiment and create without the need for expensive equipment or specialized training. Moreover, it’s allowing them to develop and manufacture their own products and bring them to market without the need for significant capital investment which is an advantage to develop even more those countries that are still in the stage of development. Finally, FabLabs are valuable resources that can enable individuals and communities to create, learn, innovate, and build together.
All FabLabs in the world are gathered in one organization: the Fab Foundation. It is a non-profit organization that aims to promote and support the development of FabLabs around the world. It was created in 2009 as a spin-off from the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT, which was one of the pioneers of the FabLabs movement. The Fab Foundation provides a range of resources and support to help communities establish and operate their own FabLabs, including training, technical assistance, and access to a global network of FabLabs operators and experts. Their website is also very useful to have any information about FabLabs. (Look in sources). It also works to build awareness and promote the value of digital fabrication and technology machines to a broader audience. One of the key initiatives of the Fab Foundation is the Fab Academy, which is a distributed educational program that provides hands-on training in digital fabrication and related technologies. The program is offered at FabLabs around the world and covers topics such as computer-aided design, electronics, and programming. This organization is very important to permit every FabLabs in the world to have a base of work, to have a common agreement, and the same spirit. It is also a great help for people who want to make new FabLabs and expand this innovative community.
usinenouvelle.com, article “les fablabs une excellence francaise.”
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