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Fab lab

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Fab Lab Logo
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 typically 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 movement is closely aligned with the DIY movement, open-source hardware, maker culture, and the free and open-source movement, and shares philosophy as well as technology with them.


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]

Vigyan Ashram in India was the first fab lab to be set up outside MIT. It is established in 2002 and received capital equipment by NSF-USA and IITK

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:

Material being processed in CNC machine, done in FabLAB located in LABNL Lab Cultural Ciudadano.


One of the larger projects undertaken by fab labs include free community FabFi wireless networks (in Afghanistan, Kenya and 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, (Based in the University of Nairobi (UoN)) building on that experience, started to experiment with controlling service quality and providing added services for a fee to make the network cost-neutral.

Fab Academy[edit]

Fab Academy leverages the Fab Lab network to teach hands-on, digital fabrication skills.[6] Students convene at Fab Lab "Supernodes" for the 19 week course to earn a diploma and build a portfolio. In some cases, the diploma is accredited or offers academic credit.[7] The curriculum is based on MIT's rapid prototyping course MAS 863: How to Make (Almost) Anything.[8] The course is estimated to cost US$5000, but varies with location and available scholarship opportunities. All course materials are publicly archived online here.

Fab City[edit]

Fab City has been set up to explore innovative ways of creating the city of the future. It focuses on transforming and shaping the way how materials are sourced and used. This transformation should lead to a shift in the urban model from 'PITO to DIDO' that is, 'product-in, trash-out' to, data-in, data-out'.[9] This can eventually transform cities into self-sufficient entities in 2054; in line with the pledge that Barcelona has made.[10] The Fab City links to the fab lab movement, because they make use of the same human capital. The Fab cities make use of the innovative spirit of the users of the fab labs.[11]

Green Fab Labs[edit]

The Green Fab Lab Network, which started in Catalonia's Green Fablab,[12] is made up of fablabs that embrace the concepts of an open source symbiotic economy and the circular economy through green entrepreneurship.[13] For example, they promote distributed recycling, where locals recycled their plastic waste turning locally sourced shredded plastic into items of value with fused particle fabrication/ fused granular fabrication (FPF/FGF) 3D printing, which not only is a good economic but also a good environmental option.[14][15]

List of labs[edit]

Listing of all official Fab Labs is maintained by the community through website fablabs.io. As of November 2019, there existed 1830 Fab Labs in the world in total.[16] Currently there are Fab Labs on every continent except Antarctica.

See also[edit]

  • 3D printing – Additive process used to make a three-dimensional object
  • Hacker Culture – Book by Douglas Thomas
  • Hackerspace – Community organization
  • Makerspace – Community organization
  • Open design – Movement for product development with publicly shared designs
  • Open hardware – Hardware from the open-design movement
  • Open Source Ecology – network of people whose main goal is the manufacturing of the Global Village Construction Set
  • RepRap – Self-replicating 3D printer initiative
  • TechShop – US chain of open-access workshops, 2006–2017


  1. ^ Menichinelli, Massimo (23 March 2011). "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 (eds.). 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" (PDF). Bangalore ThinkCycle. Retrieved 6 July 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "Fab Central - Fab Lab - IaaC". Archived from the original on 10 February 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  6. ^ "Fab Academy Course Structure | Fab Academy". fabacademy.org. Archived from the original on 2016-10-08. Retrieved 2018-01-01.
  7. ^ "Accreditations | Fab Academy". fabacademy.org. Archived from the original on 2018-12-13. Retrieved 2018-01-01.
  8. ^ "Fab Labs @ 10 | Make". Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers. 2014-07-08. Retrieved 2018-01-01.
  9. ^ "Fab City Whitepaper Locally productive, globally connected self-sufficient cities" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-11-07. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  10. ^ "What is the Fab City Global Initiative?". fab.city.
  11. ^ "Fab City: how can we build more sustainable cities?". nesta.
  12. ^ "Green FabLab Barcelona | About". greenfablab.org. Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  13. ^ "Green Fab Lab Network | FabLabs". FabLabs.io - The Fab Lab Network. Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  14. ^ Byard, Dennis J.; Woern, Aubrey L.; Oakley, Robert B.; Fiedler, Matthew J.; Snabes, Samantha L.; Pearce, Joshua M. (2019-05-01). "Green fab lab applications of large-area waste polymer-based additive manufacturing" (PDF). Additive Manufacturing. 27: 515–525. doi:10.1016/j.addma.2019.03.006. ISSN 2214-8604. S2CID 140762730.
  15. ^ "Green Fab Lab: Using the Fab Lab To 3D Print New Things From Recycled Plastics". 3DPrint.com | The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing. 2019-04-09. Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  16. ^ "Labs | FabLabs". FabLabs.io - The Fab Lab Network.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]