Fabrication Laboratories, or Fab Labs, are known as small workshops that offer personalized digital fabrications. This is the process of using 3D modeling software for both additive and subtractive manufacturing processes to make items, including items that are best limited to mass production. The aim of a fab lab is to be equipped with computerized tools that are able to make just about anything, limited only to the user's imagination.
History of Fab Labs
The fab lab program was started in the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the idea of empowering technology at the grassroots level and the concept was also inspired by a class called "How To Make (Almost) Anything at MIT.
Typical Tools in a Fab Lab
- Laser cutter, plasma cutter, knife cutter
- 3-axis CNC machines
- Rapid prototype, or 3D printer
- Printed circuit board milling
- Microprocessor and digital electronics design, assembly, and test stations
Fab Labs and 3D Printing
While fab labs are still in competition to beat out the economies of scales, 3D printing offers the solution. It can be just as inexpensive to print one object as it is to mass produce the object. This is because the addititve manufacturing style costs less than the traditional subtractive method. The inexpensive cost of 3D printing combined with a homegrown Fab lab means that you have the option to customize and personalize nearly any product you can think of, and some companies even allow you to send them your 3D model to print for you to either pick up at the store or have mailed directly to your home.