Monday, April 18, 2016


This post is about a revolution in the way we make things, not in huge centralised factories, but in distributed networks of small-scale digital manufacturing centres - Fab Labs.

Thanks to the efforts of Oliver Lowenstein and his organisation Making Lewes -  a community organisation that promotes the exchange of knowledge in the fields of Making, Architecture, Design & Sustainability -  this spring has seen three presentations on Fab Labs  here in our small town, of which The Generalist caught the third.
Tomas Diez is a Venezuelan-born urbanist, who specialises in digital fabrication and its implications on future cities. He is co-founder of the Smart Citizen project and StudioP52 in Barcelona, and director of Fab Lab Barcelona at IAAC, one of the main fabrication laboratories of the MIT global network. He is developing a new framework for cities to engage with digital fabrication and distributed sensing as urban development tools, to create positive social, economic and environmental impacts. He is a tutor in Design Products at the RCA.

Here is Tomas showing a slide was his Powerpoint presentation. This is about the different levels of small-scale manufacturing. In your house you might have a 3-D printer linked to your computer which could small-scale objects and parts. The second circle is the local fab lab which has more machines and computing power no doubt to fabricate objects using the same principles but on a larger scale. The bigger circles represent regional and national fabrication and remaking networks.

The Fab Lab Network is an open, creative community of fabricators, artists, scientists, engineers, educators, students, amateurs, professionals, of all ages located in more than 78 countries in approximately 1,000 Fab Labs. 

From community based labs to advanced research centers, Fab Labs share the goal of democratizing access to the tools for technical invention. This community is simultaneously a manufacturing network, a distributed technical education campus, and a distributed research laboratory working to digitize fabrication, inventing the next generation of manufacturing and personal fabrication.

The Fab Lab Barcelona is part of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia and is also the headquarters of the global coordination of the Fab Academy program 

The  Fab Academy is a distributed platform of education and research in which each Fab Labs operates as a classroom and the planet as the campus of the largest University in construction in the world, where students learn about the principles, applications and implications of digital manufacturing technology.

This initiative is also supported by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Bits and Atoms which studies how to turn data into things, and things into data. Why manufacture things in one country and ship it to another when you can just ship the data and they can make it there.

This is a Fab Lab House. 
The Fab Lab House, developed by the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), is a self-sufficient building that marks a new paradigm of energetic efficiency through its innovative ability to generate energy, food and utensils. The house produces three times more energy than it consumes, and thanks to its elevated structure – which naturally creates a patio/orchard/kitchen space underneath to provide for food. Also, it incorporates state-of-the-art machinery which can build tools and everyday objects by using the very same designs used in the general design of the space.

Buildings must be like trees, which are self sufficient, and must follow natural principles. Rather than built, the project was manufactured, as digital manufacturing machine tools (known as 3D printers) were used in the construction process. 

The Open Source Beehives project is a network of citizen scientists tracking bee decline. We use sensor enhanced beehives and data science to study honeybee colonies throughout the world. All of our technology and methods, from the hive and sensor kit designs to the data, are documented and made openly available for anyone to use. The primary goal is to determine the cause(s) of bee decline, to identify potential solutions, and to encourage networks of concerned citizens to study and redress the issue through the use of digital technologies in fabrication and information. 
Over the past two years a distributed team of developers have produced two open source beehive designs. Either hive can be freely downloaded, installed to a CNC router machine, and cut from a standard 4×8 sheet of material, such as plywood. The fabricated pieces are flat-packable and slot together without the need for screws or glues.  Both hives have been designed around natural beekeeping methods to lower stress factors on the colony, minimise exposure to artificial materials, and allow the bees more control over their living environment..

This is a Smart Citizen device

The Smart Citizen Kit is for Urban monitoring of ENVIRONMENTAL DATA
The Smart Citizen Kit is a piece of hardware comprised of a sensor and a data-processing board, a battery and an enclosure. The first board carries sensors that measure air composition (CO and NO2), temperature, humidity, light intensity and sound levels. Once it’s set up, the device will stream data measured by the sensors over Wi-Fi using the FCC-certified, wireless module on the data-processing board. The device’s low power consumption allows for placing it on balconies and windowsills. Power to the device can be provided by a solar panel and/or battery.

A fab city made up of an interconnected community of neighbourhood fab labs to encourage entrepreneurship and interest in innovation that have already been present in Barcelona throughout centuries. Bringing factories back to cites will lead us through a new industrial revolution where production methods and social bonds will be transformed. 

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