Fab lab

What is a fab lab?

A fab lab is a contraction of "fabrication" and "laboratory". Fab labs are an international network of places for digital fabrication and manual creation.

They accompany and train people who visit these spaces to use machines and software to create objects or carry out projects. Members also have access to electronic materials, as well as a wide range of equipment and tools, such as printers.

A fab lab is a public collaborative space open to all, whether individuals or companies. It's based on learning and sharing knowledge and skills, in the form of workshops and training courses. Creation and modeling are just some of the themes to be found in these fab labs.

The objectives

These locations allow cities to :

  • Fighting the digital divide
  • Understanding new distribution methods for short circuits
  • Sharing technical know-how

The creation of fab labs

The founding principles of a fab lab were written by a professor at MIT in Boston in the 1990s. MIT provided a framework for these practices, which helped to make the concept more widely known. There is an official fab lab charter, created by the Fab Foundation. This charter allows a structure wishing to become a fab lab to call itself one.

Four criteria must be met to become a fab lab:

  • Accessibility: the structure must be open to the public free of charge
  • Commitment to the FabLab charter
  • Shared tools and processes for collaboration
  • Participate in the international fab lab network

The case of France

France is home to the second largest number of fab labs in the world, with just over 400 structures by 2020. A project to create 300 new spaces over three years has also been decided.

But the French network of fab labs still needs to be structured so that it can develop under the best possible conditions. This means finding a solid economic model, as most of these structures depend on subsidies or donations.

A number of avenues are being explored to create this business model:

  • Offer other paid services, such as coworking spaces
  • Set up services for businesses, such as incubators

In a nutshell

A fab lab is a public space where you can use a wide range of tools and machines to create physical or virtual objects. One of the special features of these places is that they are open to everyone, whatever their level of training.

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