Recently I had an opportunity to tour the local Fab Lab. If you’re not familiar with Fab Lab, it is a small scale fabrication laboratory offering digital modeling and fabrication. Fab Lab began as collaboration between the Grassroots Invention Group and the Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) at the Media Lab in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2001. A grant from the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C. helped fund the new concept.
Our local Fab Lab is housed on the Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) campus in Appleton. It was established in the summer of 2007 and the Fab Lab at FVTC became the 17th in the world. The Fab Lab is equipped with an array of computer controlled tools including a 3D printer, laser engraving cutter, vinyl cutter, ShopBot® CNC, soldering stations and a variety of electronics Fab and testing equipment. The Fab Lab combines advanced manufacturing technology and electronics tools to bring your ideas to reality. They also connect users around the globe with common tools and platforms, for example Polycom Videoconferencing Bridge and open source software, to facilitate the exchange of ideas and designs. Currently there are over 125 Fab labs, in 34 countries.
As manufacturers in Wisconsin and other states strive to be more efficient, flexible and innovative, they will likely need employees with knowledge of digital fabrication. The Fab Lab is a great environment for students, inventors and entrepreneurs in which to learn and develop prototypes. For more information on the Fab Lab concept, visit your local Fab Lab or see Dr. Neil Gershenfeld’s book “FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop.” Dr. Gershenfeld is the Director of The Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT.
Pat Clusman is the Chief Operating Officer at Innovationedge. Innovationedge is an innovation consultancy that drives creativity and growth by transforming products, brands and businesses. – Learn more at: http://innovationedge.com/