Fab Lab FAQ

Fab labs provide widespread access to modern means for invention. They began as an outreach project from MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA). CBA assembled millions of dollars in machines for research in digital fabrication, ultimately aiming at developing programmable molecular assemblers that will be able to make almost anything. Fab labs fall between these extremes, comprising roughly fifty thousand dollars in equipment and materials that can be used today to do what will be possible with tomorrow's personal fabricators.

Fab labs have spread from inner-city Boston to rural India, from South Africa to the North of Norway. Activities in fab labs range from technological empowerment to peer-to-peer project-based technical training to local problem-solving to small-scale high-tech business incubation to grass-roots research. Projects being developed and produced in fab labs include solar and wind-powered turbines, thin-client computers and wireless data networks, analytical instrumentation for agriculture and healthcare, custom housing, and rapid-prototyping of rapid-prototyping machines.

Fab labs share core capabilities, so that people and projects can be shared across them. This currently includes:

These work with components and materials optimized for use in the field, and are controlled with custom software for integrated design, manufacturing, and project management. This inventory is continuously evolving, towards the goal of a fab lab being able to make a fab lab.

Fab labs are described here:

http://www.fabfoundation.org/fab-labs

in this video:

http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2013/07/17/exp-gps-gershenfeld-3d-printing.cnn

talk:

http://www.ted.com/tedtalks/tedtalksplayer.cfm?key=n_gershenfeld

presentation:

http://ng.cba.mit.edu/show/14.06.fab.show.html

essay:

http://cba.mit.edu/docs/papers/12.09.FA.pdf

interviews:

http://www.sciencefriday.com/pages/2005/Nov/hour1_111105.html
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125866561&f=2&sc=17

articles:

http://www.cleveland.com/science/index.ssf/2009/06/fabrication_labs_let_student_a.html
http://www.forbes.com/2008/08/13/diy-innovation-gershenfeld-tech-egang08-cx_ag_0813gershenfeld.html
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/11/13/8393124/index.htm
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v442/n7105/full/442862a.html
http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/01/30/how_to_make_almost_anything/
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/techinnovations/2005-11-06-fab-lab_x.htm

book:

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_18/b3931027_mz005.htm

and events:

http://www.fab9jp.com
http://cba.mit.edu/events/12.08.FAB8/
http://cba.mit.edu/events/11.08.FAB7/
http://cba.mit.edu/events/10.08.FAB6/

The current lab list is here:

http://www.fabfoundation.org/fab-labs/

Along with sharing tools, fab labs share rights and responsibilities expressed in the Fab Charter:

http://fab.cba.mit.edu/about/charter/

and labs with network connectivity are linked by broadband video:

http://fab.cba.mit.edu/about/video

The current hardware specification (~$50k equipment and ~$10k materials):

http://fab.cba.mit.edu/about/fab/inv.html

software:

http://kokompe.cba.mit.edu/downloads.html

and projects:

http://academy.cba.mit.edu/classes/index.html

are freely available. Labs can be mobile as well as fixed:

http://www.morningjournal.com/articles/2009/10/02/news/mj1691643.txt

and ongoing work is developing machines that can be made in the lab:

http://mtm.cba.mit.edu

For assistance with ordering, installation, training, and process and project development MIT participates in selected partnerships. However, to scale support for these functions fab labs are organized in regional networks, globally coordinated by a Fab Foundation. Along with the Fab Foundation, a Fab Fund is being launched to provide global access to capital and markets for businesses incubated in fab labs, and a Fab Academy is being accredited for distributed degree programs taught in the labs.

Launching a new fab lab requires assembling enough of the hardware and software inventory to be able to share people and projects with other fab labs, posting the Fab Charter to provide context for doing that, and contacting fab-info@cba.mit.edu to be added to the fab lab network.