Fab lab

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Amsterdam Fab Lab at The Waag Society

A fab lab (fabrication laboratory) is a small-scale workshop offering (personal) digital fabrication.[1][2]

A fab lab is generally equipped with an array of flexible computer controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, with the aim to make "almost anything".[3] This includes technology-enabled products generally perceived as limited to mass production.

While fab labs have yet to compete with mass production and its associated economies of scale in fabricating widely distributed products, they have already shown the potential to empower individuals to create smart devices for themselves. These devices can be tailored to local or personal needs in ways that are not practical or economical using mass production.


The fab lab program was initiated to broadly explore how the content of information relates to its physical representation and how an under-served community can be powered by technology at the grassroots level.[4] The program began as a collaboration between the Grassroots Invention Group and the Center for Bits and Atoms at the Media Lab in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a grant from the National Science Foundation (Washington, D.C.) in 2001.[5]

While the Grassroots Invention Group is no longer in the Media Lab, The Center for Bits and Atoms consortium is still actively involved in continuing research in areas related to description and fabrication but does not operate or maintain any of the labs worldwide (with the excmobile fab lab). The fab lab concept also grew out of a popular class at MIT (MAS.863) named "How To Make (Almost) Anything". The class is still offered in the fall semesters.

Popular equipment and projects[edit]

Flexible manufacturing equipment within a fab lab can include:


Main article: FabFi

One of the larger projects undertaken by fab labs include free community FabFi wireless networks (in Afghanistan, Kenya and the US). The first city-scale FabFi network, set up in Afghanistan, has remained in place and active for three years under community supervision and with no special maintenance. The network in Kenya, building on that experience, started to experiment with controlling service quality and providing added services for a fee to make the network cost-neutral.

List of labs[edit]

MIT maintains a listing of all official Fab Labs, worldwide. Fab labs are increasing fast in numbers in recent years/ In 2013, there are over 125 Fab labs, in 34 countries. In January 2015 there are 88 Fab labs in the US and Canada, and 240 in Europe. Outside North America and Europe there are 104 labs, 432 in the world in total.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Menichinelli, Massimo. "Business Models for Fab Labs". 
  2. ^ Troxler, Peter (2011). "Libraries of the Peer Production Era". In van Abel, Bas; Evers, Lucas; Klaassen, Roel; Troxler, Peter. Open Design Now. Why Design Cannot Remain Exclusive. Bis Publishers. ISBN 978-90-6369-259-9. 
  3. ^ Gershenfeld, Neil A. (2005). Fab: the coming revolution on your desktop—from personal computers to personal fabrication. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-02745-8. 
  4. ^ Mikhak, Bakhtiar; "development by design" (dyd02) (2002). "Fab Lab: an alternate model of ICT for development". Bangalore ThinkCycle. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  5. ^ "Fab Central - Fab Lab - IaaC". Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  6. ^ MIT: Fab Lab List

Further reading[edit]

  • Gershenfeld, Neil A. (2005). Fab: the coming revolution on your desktop—from personal computers to personal fabrication. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-02745-8. 
  • Walter-Herrmann, Julia & Bueching, Corinne (2013)(eds.) FabLab - Of Machines, Makers and Inventors. Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript. ISBN 978-3-8376-2382-6

External links[edit]