The lab we’ve been using as an example of the perfect space is the Chicago Fab Lab at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI)—here is the pdf of the blueprint for you to refer to. The Chicago lab has two of each of the machines in it and is about 1900 square feet (approximately 177 square meters). For a laboratory with one of each machine, 1500 square feet, or 140 square meters should be sufficient.
This lab is designed to accommodate larger groups (about 20-30 users at a time), so it includes double the number of machines and tools—therefore more expensive that the usual Fab Lab . Depending on the focus and community of your Fab Lab you might want to design your lab similarly. We can talk through the design together, but even if you want to maintain the standard Fab Lab (one of each machine and tool) it would be good to use this layout as a model.
Looking at the blueprint, you will see a large circular shape entitled Business Enterprise—this is a museum exhibit just outside of the Fab Lab so ignore it. Adjacent to the circle is a semi-circle entitled “design center”. As 90% of a student or user’s time is spent designing on the computer, MSI invested in a design space for 12 users, plus a teacher/guru who can demonstrate using a projector and a powerful laptop computer on the screen at the front of the design center. This is also where videoconferencing for Fab Academy or meetings happens as well.
Behind the design center/screen wall is a computer room for IT purposes.
To the left of the design center there is another semicircular space. This is display space for the best or most interesting projects in the Fab Lab at the time.
To the left and behind the design center is the electronics workbench. That includes one set of bench test equipment, but two soldering stations and two programming stations (2 computers) and of course, electronic components and tools for two labs.
Along the back wall are two Modelas for making circuits and molds for casting. There is a computer designated for each Modela. (2 computers total here). Also along the back wall are two laser cutters, attached to 1 computer, and attached to an outside, roof ventilation system.
Toward the end of the back wall is a counter and sink with running water to handle casting projects and other projects that require water for processing or clean up. There are two long, empty counters along the back wall as well for work space and for use with some of the other kinds of tools, like a drill press and a scroll saw.
The right end of the lab, in the center of the lab there is a large open space for the ShopBot (large wood router) and the associated computer and filter/blower. This is the one item that has special electrical power needs.
And finally you will see 2 or 3 large rectangles spanning the center of the room. These are purely workspace, places where students and users can spread out their projects as they work on them. Incredibly useful.
The one aspect of the space that all Fab Labs underestimate is the need for material and project storage. You need some significant space devoted to storing large pieces of wood and other materials, as well as cubby holes or shelving for student/user individual projects.