A FabLab (Fabrication Laboratory) can be understood as a physical space with tools and machines for digital fabrication; a community of people that collaborate and share some values and capabilities; and a node in a global network that seeks a balance between being completely independent and local and being completely coordinated and global. Each of these three different natures is important and cannot be taken alone. It is a small-scale workshop offering digital fabrication for invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship with a unique operation. Unlike traditional academic laboratories, Fab Lab is open to the public and is connected to about 565 local Fab Labs around the world as a global network to share knowledge, design, and process to facilitate peer learning. A hands-on distance education course called “how to make almost everything” organized by the Fab Academy and annual Fab Lab conference contributes to sharing knowledge and building community globally.
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” . Flexible manufacturing equipment within a fab lab can include:
• Rapid prototype machine: typically a 3D printer of plastic or plaster parts;
• 3-axis CNC machines: 3 or more axes, computer-controlled subtractive milling or turning machines;
• Printed circuit board milling or etching: two-dimensional, high precision milling to create circuit traces in pre-clad copper boards;
• Microprocessor and digital electronics design, assembly, and test stations; and
• Cutters, for sheet material: laser cutter, plasma cutter, water jet cutter, knife cutter.