Case study: Happylab – the first FabLab in Austria

Happylab is one of “our” cases that we have explored to understand how maker initiatives are organized, how makers improve their skills and how they interact with each other and finally, which values are created by making.

Happylab has around 2,000 members in Vienna (there are two more labs, in Salzburg and in Berlin) and is managed by two CEOs, additionally it is supported by 5 staff members, i.e. lab manager, technical support, PR and office support. It is a small-medium enterprise whose sustainability is enabled by membership fees (among other sources of income). The machines, Happylab hosts, are the following: lasercutter, CNC Milling machine, 3D Printer, and Vinylcutter.

One of the core missions of Happylab is to be accessible to the widest segments of population and does thus follow principles of empowerment and inclusion. Further, efforts are taken to reach out to pupils at different educational levels.

Accessibility is seen from a financial perspective as well as from a usability perspective. Financially the hurdle to use Happylab is rather low although only those who are paying members are allowed to use the infrastructure. The membership fee however is affordable for most people (from 9 to 49 Euro per month). From the usability point of view the mangers have tried to make the work flows as easy as possible to lower the hurdles for people without any technological background.

All the machines are professional machines which work more reliably and allow for a good user experience.

Members of Happylab are not requested to respect a comprising code of conduct when using the infrastructure but there are a few rules that are taken seriously. For instance, membership cards are personal and it is strictly forbidden to pass it to another person. This way, Happylab has control over whether a person is allowed to use a certain machine or not (depending on whether he or she has completed the free training for that particular machine in order to protect the machine from damage).

The Happylab members learn and acquire skills, necessary to operate the machines, trough free trainings and additional specific courses (to pay) offered by Happylab formally and more informally in exchange with other members. Courses comprise trainings that are dedicated to children between 10 and 15 years, the Fab Lab Bootcamp that is a week of training on digital design and fabrication, Fab Academy that lasts for half a year, and the Ideas2Product course that aims at supporting entrepreneurs from prototyping to a product on the market.

Happylab creates economic value in the region of Vienna in the sense that it is a nutshell for start-up entrepreneurs and quite some enterprises have been born in Happylab or due to the use of Happylab. Happylab is set up in a way that is ideal for start-ups. Without any risk they can experiment around with professional machines, which would certainly exceed the financial capability of a young start-up.

Happylab creates social value among its members. Users of the lab appreciate the networking aspect that they feel among likeminded people who share similar interests. Many projects that have been realised in Happylab, besides its commercial aspect, bear social value.

For more detailed information please have a look at our report and the Happylab website www.happylab.at

 

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