|spotlight: Mobile Fab Lab hits the road|
What exactly is a Fab Lab?
A Fab Lab is a way to give users around the world the ability to locally conceptualize, design, develop, fabricate and test almost anything. It began as an outreach project from MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, and has grown into a global network.
Using MIT research on digital fabrication, these labs provide widespread access to prototyping tools for personal fabrication, allowing ordinary people around the world to create as well as use advanced technologies.
Fab labs have spread from inner-city Boston to rural India, from South Africa to the North of Norway. They're being used for a wide-range of purposes including technical empowerment, local problem-solving, informal project-based technical training, small-scale high-tech business creation and grass-roots research. Projects include work on thin-client computers and wireless antennae for network access, analytical instrumentation for healthcare and agriculture, solar-powered turbines for energy, and locally responsive low-cost housing.
The labs currently include a computer-controlled laser to cut out parts to assemble 2D and 3D structures, a sign cutter that plots in copper to make antennae and flexible circuits, a high-resolution table-top milling machine to make molds and circuit boards, a larger milling machine to make furniture- and house-sized parts, and electronic components and programming tools for working with low-cost high-speed microcontrollers. MIT has developed engineering software, materials, and workflows to bring these together for use in the field, and the lab's capabilities continue to evolve.
Each year, there is a gathering of the growing global fab lab network. This year's meeting in Chicago will be held the week of August 20th (http://cba.mit.edu/events/07.08.fab) and will bring together field fab-labbers and laboratory researchers for a one-day research meeting and a week of workshops. It is hosted by MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms along with the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and local partners.
The new mobile fab lab (pictured on today's home page) left Cambridge last week to join a flagship fab lab recently deployed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago for use at next week's meeting. Afterwards, it will visit sites in the Midwest and Gulf Coast before an extended stay in the South Bronx to construct a fab lab there.
Read more about the Fab Lab at http://fab.cba.mit.edu or read an interview with Professor Neil Gershenfeld in MIT Spectrum.
Fab 4: The Fourth International Fab Lab Forum and Symposium on Digital Fabrication takes place in Chicago, August 20-25, 2007.