About Fab Labs
Fab Labs began in 2002 as an educational outreach programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Centre for Bits & Atoms. Founded by CBA’s Professor Neil Gershenfeld their aims are to provide a technical prototyping platform for innovation and invention, providing stimulus for local entrepreneurship and a platform for learning and innovation: a place to play, to create, to learn, to mentor, to invent.
To be a Fab Lab means connecting to a global community of learners, educators, technologists, researchers, makers and innovators – a knowledge sharing network that spans 30 countries and 24 time zones. Because all Fab Labs share common tools and processes, the program is building a global network, a distributed laboratory for research and invention.
Fab Labs contain a range of advanced digital design and fabrication tools, including open-source software and programmes written by researchers at MIT’s Centre for Bits & Atoms. Equipment includes laser cutters that make 2D and 3D structures, 3D printers for making 3D polymer parts with complex geometries, a vinyl sign cutter that can also plot in copper to make antennas and flex circuits, a high-resolution NC milling machine that makes circuit boards and precision parts, a large wood router for building furniture and housing, and a suite of electronic components and programming tools for low-cost, high-speed microcontrollers for on-site rapid electronics circuit prototyping.
Originally designed for communities as prototyping platforms for local entrepreneurship, Fab Labs are increasingly being adopted by schools as platforms for project-based, hands-on STEM education. Users learn by designing and creating objects of personal interest or import. Empowered by the experience of making something themselves, they both learn and mentor each other, gaining deep knowledge about the machines, the materials, the design process, and the engineering that goes into invention and innovation. In educational settings, rather than relying on a fixed curriculum, learning happens in an authentic, engaging, personal context, one in which students go through a cycle of imagination, design, prototyping, reflection, and iteration as they find solutions to challenges or bring their ideas to life.
The Fab Charter
The Fab Charter is a list of guiding principles that all Fab Labs and Fab Lab users around the world adhere to and provides is the backbone of the Fab Lab movement:
What is a fab lab?
Fab labs are a global network of local labs, enabling invention by providing access to tools for digital fabrication
What's in a fab lab?
Fab labs share an evolving inventory of core capabilities to make (almost) anything, allowing people and projects to be shared
What does the fab lab network provide?
Operational, educational, technical, financial, and logistical assistance beyond what’s available within one lab
Who can use a fab lab?
Fab labs are available as a community resource, offering open access for individuals as well as scheduled access for programs
What are your responsibilities?
Safety: not hurting people or machines
Operations: assisting with cleaning, maintaining, and improving the lab
knowledge: contributing to documentation and instruction
Who owns fab lab inventions?
Designs and processes developed in fab labs can be protected and sold however an inventor chooses, but should remain available for individuals to use and learn from
How can businesses use a fab lab?
Commercial activities can be prototyped and incubated in a fab lab, but they must not conflict with other uses, they should grow beyond rather than within the lab, and they are expected to benefit the inventors, labs, and networks that contribute to their success