What is a FabLab?
First of all, what is a FabLab? According to the website definition of FabLab BeNeLux it is “a digital workshop which can be used by the public to create transform creative ideas into tangible prototypes” and depending on the Fabrication Laboratory location it will have available a vinyl cutter, 3D printer, etc.
I have been meaning to bring out my inner Naomi Wu for a while (well- since I first came across this amazing human) and start MAKING, beyond my usual up-cycling/recycling crafts. Therefore when I saw this Meetup for a walk-in of the Mariahoeve FabLab I jumped on the opportunity and RSVP with an open mind, already thinking about what possible useful object I could 3D print and exited about the idea of potentially acquiring new skills and a new production resource.
Prior to my visit, I looked into the FabLab concept and understood it rests on a few objectives/principles:
- fostering innovation
- community not franchise
It is also specified that a space can adopt the FabLab determination if it adheres to the Fab Charter. There are over 600 FabLabs worldwide (and x in the nl?).
About FabLab Mariahoeve
The FabLab Mariahoeve is special in the sense that it is part of the Middin organisation that supports individuals intellectual disabilities. The lab was funded to offer to their clients access to these technologies and empower them to innovate. The Lab is used in cooperation with other activity groups in the centre such as making moulds for candle-making or masks for the in house representation of the Lion King. One key aspect of the Lab is to provide the opportunity to Middin clients to create prototypes in response to their specific needs and perhaps have an entrepreneurial initiative emerge for others sharing similar landscapes. A smart watch holder for instance was in the making, as well as projects for wheelchair accessibility using concepts of “the internet of things”.
It is clear I learned a lot during this meeting. It must be said first that the team was welcoming and attentive. The head of the project is not only a kind and mindful person but naturally curious about technology and ready to show you a myriad of topics of interest, such as a mechanic hand project ongoing to join a Makers Facebook group. I learnt that after following (and paying about 35€ for) a workshop you are “certified”(apparently some kind of diploma is involved) and you can use the equipment in any other FabLab in the world.
Opening the Lab to visitors and outsiders such as myself was a simple initiative to share knowledge and perhaps give back to the community, as machine users are encouraged to offer a service back to Middin or create something useful for them in exchange.
Amongst all the technology present (3D printer, 3D scanner, some multi surface printer, a textile press, etc) I was surprised to be most interested by the laser cutting machine which seemed to offer many artistic and up-cycling opportunities with second hand wood.
How does this relate to the circular economy?
As the sustainable urban transformation and circular economy is the main driver behind this series I will end on a few points on how it contributes to the circular economy:
- Sharing of tools
- Open access to knowledge and expertise
- PVC plastic used for 3D printing
- Local production and support for local initiatives
- Cross-use of energy amongst different stakeholders
You can get in touch with Fab Lab Mariahoeve on Facebook and Meetup. What do you think of this serie? What place in the Hague would you like to hear about next?