Originally, manufacturing technologies were only available for expensive mass production companies. However, this global community is made of technologists, researchers, makers, non-profit organizations, innovators, learners, and also ordinary citizens, who provide and have access to tools, knowledge and financial resources to educate, innovate and invent. From community-based labs to advanced research centers, there is a shared aim to democratize access to tools for technical invention. Available technology and digital fabrication allow anyone to download electronic blueprints or design and fabricate almost any object, thereby creating opportunities to improve lives and livelihoods around the world.
This community is simultaneously a network, a technical education campus, and a research laboratory, with teachers and students around the world linked by broadband video, shared online information, and common technical capabilities, all working to digitize fabrication.
Fab Lab Barcelona has produced Hyperhabitat IAAC project officially selected for the Venice Biennale XXI (2018). Fab Lab House won the People Choice Ward in the first Solar Decathlon Europe in Madrid (2010).
- 1,600 Fab Labs in more than 100 countries.
- Creation of communities through user’s engagement and exchange.
- Local businesses have used labs to design new products.
- Strong corporate partnerships with organizations such as Chevron, GE Foundation, Airbus and SolidWorks. These partnerships create new labs and support resources and programmes in existing labs. Other examples include Creative Lab in Guyancourt, France (with Renault) and Fab Lab Bristol, in the United Kingdom (with Saint-Gobain).
- Policy makers engage more and more with labs – for example, Fab Lab Valldaura works with the World Bank and the National Governors Association in the Unitd States.
- By producing items in Fab Labs rather than purchasing and shipping internationally, users are reducing their carbon footprint. Also, by fixing or repurposing items rather than disposing of them and buying new ones a more sustainable culture is created.
The digital fabrication laboratories are set up to inspire people and entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into new products and prototypes by giving them access to a range of advanced digital manufacturing technology, tools and processes. The machines are computer-controlled and designed to transform drawings in the screen into three-dimensional objects. All common spaces are equipped with the following capabilities:
- Fabrication by addition of materials: 3D printer.
- Fabrication by removal of materials: digitally controlled milling or turning machines.
- Cutting of flat materials using lasers or a computer-controlled knifes.
Access is free and open to the public, but direct expenses like materials may be charged. The designs and processes developed in Fab Labs could be protected and sold but should remain available for individuals to use and learn from. Commercial activities can be prototyped and incubated in a Fab Lab but should grow beyond, rather than within the lab, to benefit the inventors and networks that contributed to their success. Each laboratory has its own identity, attracts different types of users and offers diverse range of services. Some may work for youth, others for social and community development, or as part of curriculum in schools.
To complement these modern means for invention the network created new organizations: a non-profit Fab Foundation to support invention as aid, a for-profit Fab Fund to provide global capital and global markets, and an educational Fab Academy for distributed advanced technical education.
The Fab Network and Fab Conferences also present opportunities to share designs, experiences and to participate in bigger projects. Additionally, there are other initiatives, such as Fab City, in which the labs can participate to design sustainable practices in design, manufacture and living.