I have been researching other Fab Labs around the world, and I reckon that, here in the UK, we could learn a thing or two, not only from what are doing, but also from what they aren’t doing.
For instance, every Fab Lab seems to go it alone, and buy all their machinery from commercial suppliers, paying an absolute fortune. But, if we established a linked network of Fab Labs, then we could use Open Source designs so that each new Fab Lab could go on workshops at an existing Fab Lab, and make most of their machinery.
After all, Fab Labs are supposed to be about Making? And collaboration and co-operation. And community effort.
It’s not a new idea, “Rep Lab” (the self-replicating Fab Lab) has been around for a while, as a part of the Open Source Ecology project. And that spawned the idea of the Global Village Construction Set.
GVCS might be getting a bit grandiose for regular old Fab Labs, but wouldn’t it be great to make any corporate or grant funding go ten or 100 times further? That’s the promise of Rep Lab:
What if we reduce the price of this tool set by a factor of 10? While we are at it, why not add about five times the functionality in that price? That is exactly what we plan on doing: RepLab – the open source Fab Lab. Read the wiki entry on this here, and see the other articles on RepLab here.
How else might UK Fab Labs be different? Well, there’s the idea of using sustainable, energy-efficient buildings, not only to reduce the running costs of each individual Fab Lab, but also as a beacon for the local community, and also a resource within the community to make dissemination of the ideas easier and more effective.
That’s two ideas off of the top of my mind: more later.
I’m going to the Sustainable Business Exhibition tomorrow, In Bournemouth. I have had a dream for some time now, that Fab Labs UK could be in purpose built, “drop in” units, built with sustainability and the environment in mind.
Gary Wilson, Creative Director of HPW Architects is giving a talk “The benefits of improving energy efficiency in new builds and retro-fit projects“; their “Leisure” portfolio looks like just the sort of thing we’re looking for.
For some time I have been interested in the work of a company called Potton, who make “self-build” buildings, and I’m wondering if their Kingspan product range might not be able to give us a very quick and easy way to get a Fab Lab — a sustainable Fab Lab — up and running quickly.
And I’m also hoping that we might find a corporate sponsor who could help us get a Fab Labs UK road show going. In Holland they have the Fab Lab Truck (that page is in Dutch, but if you view it in Google Chrome, it will be automatically translated). The Fab Lab truck tours the country, sparking interest, demonstrating the concept … which is maybe why Holland has 50 times as many Fab Labs per head of population than the UK does!
The concept of the mobile Fab Lab has been around for quite a while.
I was thinking, maybe (he says, tongue in cheek) of something a bit like this: