Fablab TI is one of the cases of the MAKE-IT project where the lab’s internal features and relations and interactions with makers and their initiatives were explored to determine how these maker communities are organized and governed. What Makers do in the labs and their interactions with their peers and third parties, and the various ways this impacts on and adds value to society.
Fablab TI team
Fablab is funded and hosted by the Danish Technological Institute (DTI)—a non-profit self-owned organization of over 1000 specialists and 10 business units aimed at improving the exploitation of new technologies of SMEs via an interdisciplinary approach and advanced technical facilities. Fablab TI however, is fairly autonomous of DTI and is based on the work of the Inventor Advisory Service started in 1972, and where Danish citizens are offered free of charge support, advice and counselling of their ideas and products.
Lab management and personnel consists of:
- a core team of three persons
- the Head of the Inventor Advisory Service
- a Fablab Manager, and
- a Tangibility Manager
- 6 Inventor Advisors
- 1 student lab assistant
- 1 graphics student
- 1 journalist and storyteller
Within Fablab TI there is a strong focus on training the lab’s future core team from among its student body.
The technology above them all: The human brain
At Fablab TI having the right mindset to facilitate the process by which ideas leave the lab and successfully enter the market, trumps all other digital fabrication tools/machines in the lab. While all machines are available to users (under the supervision of attendant lab personnel), lab managers and personnel deem makerspaces (e.g. fablabs) to be spaces for more than making, and question:
- what are the machines really needed for?
- what improvements or headway are being sought after with these machines?
- what are managers and facilitators hoping to learn?
- what can users learn and likewise impart on their peers, lab facilitators and managers?
- who are the users to be targeted and helped?
- what are the ultimate goals of the lab’s users?
At Falab TI, makerspaces are spaces for learning, community building and expanding, inclusion, and cooperation between users, their peers and third parties, where necessary. These spaces are essentially about people; the ‘hyper-connected humanity’ emanating from mobilized individuals; the knowledge derived from sharing ideas while working towards transforming ideas into tangible and potentially lucrative solutions.
At Fablab TI, lab managers and personnel work with users to empower their improvement of the world around them, with tools, methodologies, creativity and continuous motivation.
Professional tools and coaching
Like other fablabs around the world offering high tech digital fabrication equipment to users (3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, etc), Fablab TI with over 40 years of experience and knowledge gained from working with validation and commercialization of ideas from the public under its Inventor Advisory Service is able to go a step further by providing over 2000 Danish students and their teachers with knowledge and training in idea development and idea validation methods using a hands-on/practical and creativity-building approaches where the focus is on the individual rather than the idea itself.
Its human-centered innovation processes and experimentation are key tools for experimenting, building and transforming ideas into commercial opportunities (if so desired). In so doing, activities at Fablab TI ranges from peer-to-peer project based technical training to local problem solving and small-scale prototype development and innovative business training.
The Carsten Case
One man’s story sums up the mission of Fablab TI: Carsten Wu Søndergaard suffers from sclerosis and in response to losing his cane repeatedly, invented a magnetic add-on in order to always be able to keep it at hand. He made the first prototypes in his garage, but needed to further detail his product for production, and started visiting Fablab TI. At Fablab TI he learned about the iterative manner in which an idea can be built, taught himself 3D construction and continued making various 3D printed designs of his invention.
When Carsten’s invention succeeded in reaching a national drugstore franchise, taking charge and managing a business was not an option and once again he returned to Fablab TI to iterate on his business model. Through a series of meetings, presentations and negotiations with different companies he finally landed a license agreement with a Danish company, which took over production and marketing responsibilities, so Carsten could continue doing what he loved most – building ideas.
Carsten’s case demonstrates that the makerspace is but a small tool in a much larger landscape – the landscape of ideas. He dared to fail over and over again, resulting in him constructing his idea in an iterative, experimenting manner. Making technology available alone would not have guided Carsten to where he is today, but through guidance and sparring with other lab guests and personnel, he practiced and learned about his own aspirations and limitations as an inventor and entrepreneur.