MIT FAB LAB and
the Creations that Come from It!
|Check out FABLabs for America!
The FABLabs for America are being sponsored though partnership with The Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Project, Inc. - MIT - BPS - and the New Urban Mechnanics. Come join creativity, technology and art together with your imagination to make something that can be part of our sustainable future!
Here is an excellent summary of what FABLabs for Amreica is about and the kinds of applications it has been used for:
Sherry Lassiter, program manager at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, defines their Fab Labs, or fabrication labs, as "basically, playrooms on digital hormones." Since 2002, she and her colleagues have established Fab Labs all around the world as free or shared community resources. Initially funded using a grant from the National Science Foundation to explore the intersection of engineering, construction and computation, the labs are now sustained by local financing.
"Many of our users arrive with little technical expertise, and they can very quickly learn to use these digital fabrication tools to create anything from three‐ dimensional chocolate molds to to solar houses and small satellites."
FabLabs for America are designed to give communities the ability to quickly and inexpensively create solutions to personal and community needs, interests and challenges. They provide a rapid prototyping facility comprised of commercially available computer‐ controlled machinery. Each Lab is equipped with five core instruments, among them, a high-resolution NC milling machine , a sign cutter, a giant CNC (computer numeric control) wood router, a computer‐controlled laser cutter, a 3D printer, a digital sewing machines and a sophisticated electronic workbench that allows for circuit design, assembly and microcontroller programming on site.
In addition to fabricating their own designs, FABLab users can inexpensively create and customize alternatives to commrecially available items. For example, materials for fabricating a long‐range antenna cost around $2, which is far cheaper than obtaining a commercially produced equivalent.
"We have had our MDX‐20 milling machines and GX vinyl cutters in use for seven years now, in locations that include some of the hottest and most humid places on earth, and we haven't had a single maintenance problem," said Lassiter. "We have been amazed by the consistent high quality performance of the Roland machines, especially given the large number of users and variety of applications."
The first Fab Lab was established in Pabal, northeast of Mumbai, India. Then came labs in Costa Rica and rural Norway. Today there are 135 Fab Labs around the world in 27 countries. This includes approximately 35 FABLabs in rural and urban settings across the United States. The size of the program is doubling roughly every 18 months as communities create FABLabs of their own.
Fab Labs are connected via an always‐on video conferencing tool to one another and to MIT, allowing inventors to share blueprints and receive guidance from researchers. The Labs use open‐source software and some MIT‐written programs as well as commercially available software to operate their machines.
To date, FABLabs have been used to design everything from personalized toy robots to elaborate electronic communications systems. FABLabs inventions range from simple to complex, and from utilitarian to utopian. Shepherds have developed tracking devices for their sheep, dairy farmers are developing analytical instrumentation to test the fat content and freshness of milk, and villagers developed LED light systems for areas not served by electricity. In other labs, inventors have created wooden toys and game pieces, scanned and printed blocks for embroidery, and fashioned tiny robotic animals. In all cases, the FABLabs provide a local forum for low‐cost custom production.
"Eventually, we foresee desktop fabrication becoming as widespread as desktop publishing," said Lassiter. "Today, our users are producing just about anything they can imagine - from nano scale to building scale. We provide them with the best, most reliable and user‐friendly tools we can find, and let them get creative."
This article was excerpted from the website of Product Development, Inc. (http://www.pdi3d.com) under the title Roland MDX Case Study - MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms.
Originally designed by Autumn Gedutis & Sarah Prouty.
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