Who/What qualifies as a Fab Lab?
The four qualities and requirements listed below altogether create an enabling environment that we call a Fab Lab. If your lab effort meets all these criteria, “Welcome!” If you feel you are in synchrony with the Fab Lab form and spirit, please use our logo in your fundraising efforts, and keep us informed of your progress. Please register your lab effort or new fab lab on the world map here. Here are the criteria we currently use for defining a Fab Lab:
First and foremost, public access to the Fab Lab is essential. 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.
Fab Labs support and subscribe to the Fab Lab charter: http://fab.cba.mit.edu/about/charter/
Fab Labs have to share a common set of tools and processes. A prototyping facility is not the equivalent of a Fab Lab. A 3D printer is not a Fab Lab. The idea is that all the labs can share knowledge, designs, and collaborate across international borders. If I make something here in Boston and send you the files and documentation, you should be able to reproduce it there, fairly painlessly. If I walk into a Fab Lab in Russia, I should be able to do the same things that I can do in Nairobi, Cape Town, Delhi, Amsterdam or Boston Fab Labs. The critical machines and materials are identified in this list: http://fab.cba.mit.edu/about/fab/inv.html and there’s a list of open source software and freeware that we use online as well (embedded in Fab Academy modules here: http://academy.cba.mit.edu/classes/ ) But essentially it’s the processes and the codes and the capabilities that are important. So you want a laser cutter for 2D/3D design and fabrication, a high precision milling machine for making circuits and molds for casting, a vinyl cutter for making flexible circuits and crafts, a fairly sophisticated electronics workbench for prototyping circuits and programming microcontrollers, and if you can possibly find the funds, you’ll want the large wood routing machine for furniture and housing applications. We are also testing fairly inexpensive, but robust and with fair resolution 3D printers—the most current favorite is listed in the inventory.
Fab Labs must participate in the larger, global Fab Lab network, that is, you can’t isolate yourself. This is about being part of a global, knowledge-sharing community. The public videoconference is one way to do connect. Attending the annual Fab Lab meeting is another. FAB11 is in Cambridge, Boston this year, July 2-8. Collaborating and partnering with other labs in the network on workshops, challenges or projects is another way. Participating in Fab Academy is yet another way.
Good luck and welcome!!!