Author: Elisabeth Unterfrauner


Case study: Dezentrale – a Maker initiative offering a variety of digital fabrication technologies

Dezentrale inner courtyard (Photo: Julia Krayer)

Based in Dortmund (Germany), Dezentrale is a Maker initiative, which, since July 2013, offers a variety of digital fabrication technologies (3D printers, a laser cutter, and electronic equipment), respective knowledge, space and the required equipment for mushroom growing. It is a project funded and run by the research institute Fraunhofer UMSICHT that has a strong focus on sustainable energy and resource use and the transfer of scientific results into companies, society and politics.

Dezentrale is open to the public on two afternoons a week, whereby the focus is on digital fabrication during the first afternoon and on mushroom growing during the second. In addition, Dezentrale offers a variety of workshops. These cover various themes ranging from introduction to 3D printing over crypto parties to mushroom growing. At the moment, Dezentrale is also involved in research projects that address how collaborative economies emerge from production processes, different possibilities for sustainable energy solutions within the citizens’ district, creation of personalized products and equipment for children suffering from rheumatic diseases.

Aiming for an increased participation of the public in research, Dezentrale is supporting the annual festival for more democratic science Innovative Citizen for the third time this year. Dezentrale’s goal to open up research and innovation processes for society via its different projects and is also co-organizing the citizen festival Innovative Citizen, an annual festival for more democratic science.
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Case study: Arduino – participating in a world of creation in digital space

“If you aren’t able to participate in the world of creation in the digital space, you’re left out.”  (Severance 2014).

There are many different options to create and craft digital artefacts and products. One of them is Arduino. Arduino itself is a microcontroller on a developer board which can be easily ordered and programmed to do a variety of things. The ever-growing Arduino community is made up of everyone from hobbyists and students to designers and engineers all across the world.

Arduino started as a teaching tool, and one of the conditions shaping the emergence of Arduino were the requirements of studying interaction design. These students had only about 30 days to study electronics applied to design. So apart from many other things, the Arduino technology had to be very accessible in a relatively short time.

Arduino is, in fact, many boards. Boards are different in terms of memory (Uno versus Mega) or in terms of processing power (Uno versus Due). This aspect actually relates to an on-going discussion of closed hardware products being inspired by Arduino but offering better functionalities at a lower price to maker enthusiasts. Now that the idea of programmable microcontrollers has taken off, different business models are experimented with. In the end, Arduino is not only a technology but also a company that had to grow and stabilize. Even though Arduino is one of the success stories in open source hardware, it’s still a relatively small company with few full-time employees.
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Case study: How to Make (Almost) Anything – HRW Lab, Bottrop (DE)

The HRW FabLab is located at the “Hochschule Ruhr West University for Applied Sciences” (HRW) in Bottrop, Germany. Bottrop is located in the Ruhr district, the densest populated area in Germany which has undergone significant degradation after the loss of its industrial base.

Due to the explicit orientation on education and empowerment, the HRW FabLab is helping to raise the human capital of the area by teaching practical skills for innovation. Psychological barriers to higher education are consciously broken down by inviting pupils to the FabLab who could usually not imagine following an academic career. The research and development services benefit especially local SMEs who might otherwise not have the budget for tailor-made R&D services.

The HRW FabLab is primarily a laboratory for students at the technical University of Applied Sciences “Hochschule Ruhr West” (HRW) and has also open hours for non-students from the wider community. The HRW is a technical University of Applied Sciences with focus on computer science, engineering, mathematics, natural sciences and business administration.

According to the motto “How to Make (Almost) Anything”, the HRW FabLab encourages its students to experiment with rapid prototyping in a wide area of fields like robotics, electronics, 3D-design, -printing and –scanning, film-making, clothes-making, drone-making, and the pursuit of various individual projects. The HRW FabLab offers furthermore a wide variety of hands-on workshops and learning experiences in the above-mentioned fields for primary and secondary schools as well as other interested groups like refugees and youth from disadvantaged areas.

The FabLab does not have a formalised membership structure, but the facility manager estimates that it has a user base of approximately 200 people who regularly use the facilities, plus a larger number of one-time users who come to workshops and courses.

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Case study: Smart Bending Factory – The customizing products plug-in company

Can metal shields be ordered on-demand and on time? Probably no one would think that this is very likely. However, one company can do this. The plug-in company Smart Bending Factory (SBF), situated in the Netherlands, developed and implemented a web-based portal through which customers can order their metal sheets and tubes on-demand through the Internet. It allows to offer one dedicated product almost at the production cost of a product from a series of 500 products. The three guiding principles for the SBF are community thinking and working, joint exploration of physical processes in a physical SBF and last but not least, applying the web-based SOPHIA technology.

The SOPHIA technology calculates how many parts are required, analyses all the characteristics of the parts, and how it can be manufactured. SOPHIA analyses the product design drawing to indicate for example whether the design is feasible and gives feedback. Thus engineers’ work can be focused on designing the product in an optimal way in line with the latest production machines. SOPHIA provides the customer with feedback about the design. It therefore often uses animated movies to indicate any problems or inefficiencies in the design. This enables the customer to make smart choices. Also, draft designs are uploaded in a very early stage, which makes the process increasingly efficient.

It implies that SBF allows for maximum flexibility and customer orientation, first-time-right mentality, while keeping the costs of the development to a bare minimum.

The ambition of the SBF in the region is that a large number of non-competing OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in the metal processing industry are put together in a community environment for sharing knowledge, experiences, resources, and information, while exploiting metal product manufacturing process steps together. The broad goal is to stabilize, if possible increase the competitive position of the region and its companies.

Key reasoning is that it does not make sense that it is possible for consumers to order a product at home online at a web shop and receive the product the next day, while that is not possible for business customers for their metal products. Those business customers generally have to wait weeks. The SBF vision is to allow for on-demand 3D metal manufacturing.

SOPHIA software
Get real-time indication and choice
Manufactured in an SBF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Case Study: Fablab TI, Denmark

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:

  1. a core team of three persons
    1. the Head of the Inventor Advisory Service
    2. a Fablab Manager, and
    3. a Tangibility Manager
  2. 6 Inventor Advisors
  3. 1 student lab assistant
  4. 1 graphics student
  5. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MAKE-IT at the 18th ERSCP-conference in Greece, 2017

The ERSCP conference in Greece is one of the most remarkable conferences worldwide, which focuses on environmental key issues like sustainable consumption and production. The conference supports the exchange of thoughts, knowledge and experiences within the community and has over the years established a worldwide dialogue between researchers from different countries and disciplines. Scientists from all over the world share their research and practices about consumption and production and discuss new possibilities and solutions in thematic workshops during the conference. Main themes of the conference are for instance Circular Economy, Zero waste management, Advances in Sustainable Consumption & Lifestyles, Sustainability in Production & Design and Eco-Efficiency, Sustainable/Smart Cities.

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Case study: Show, exchange and inspire – the Tartu Mini Maker Faire

Tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, citizens and entrepreneurs – they all come together at the Mini Maker Faire in Tartu to show their projects, to talk about what they have learned, exchange and inspire visitors to become a maker. The idea is to gather all the people that can be defined as makers to trigger an awareness and emergence of the Maker movement in Estonia and in other Baltic countries. Since its beginning the Tartu Mini Maker Faire has constantly grown: the number of makers has doubled from 2014, where 58 maker teams were present, to 2015, with an average of 1000 visitors yearly. This year Tartu the mini maker fair was fully independent from the science festival which served the recent years as the organisational frame.

One could state that ‘Making’ and the Maker movement in general is associated to historical roots in Estonia. The deprivations during the Soviet Era encouraged people to re-use materials and be creative with scarce resources. “We really did not have many things around” (interview partner AHHAA). Still the progress of ‘consumerism’ has jeopardized this link – and the Maker movement is supposed to bring it back.

Tartu Mini Maker Faire is mostly focused on creating awareness about the Maker movement in Tartu when the term “maker” was not well-known prior the arrangement of the Mini Maker Faire. As such, it may also have the potential of getting a broader public involved with making and to promoting STEM and creativity among a broad public.


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Case Study: Create It REAL, Aalborg (Denmark)

Create It REAL is based in Aalborg, Denmark and was founded in 2009 by Jeremie Gay. Building 3D printers started as a hobby until Jeremie decided to quit his job to live out of this activity.

As of today, Create it REAL counts twelve international employees, which are mostly composed of men in their mid-20, with an engineering background. Create it REAL operates as a R&D centre, specialising in developing and adapting the technology behind 3D printing and creating platform solutions to reveal the full potential of 3D printers. They focus on 3D printing technology development, with key products being their software platform (REALvision) and the worldwide first real-time processor dedicated to 3D printing. This technology allows a printing speed 5 times faster than standard 3D printers. It also allows the encryption of 3D files which could solve Intellectual property issues in the future.

Create It REAL offer their platform to 3D printer manufacturers for integration into their own 3D printers and can also assist companies in building their prototypes to enter the 3D printing market. Create It REAL also participates in local and European projects with schools, working in partnership with Aalborg Municipality and teachers. They try to help students to develop their creativity and discover new technologies they may have to use every day in the future.

Create it REAL also spend a lot of time in working in different areas of 3D printing to tackle the industry issue and accelerate its development: food printing, Bio printing, new slicing algorithm (software used to prepare a 3D print) are key areas where R&D is important to move forward.

Counter-intuitively for an R&D centre, they nurture openness and publish their results to the wider public and showcase their work in exhibitions to address makers and 3D printing community. Create it REAL balances between openness and the competing market. “One of the reasons why I left open source projects was because I knew the architecture would be a problem for long-term development.” (Jeremie Gay). Still, some openness is yet needed to allow compatibility and flexibility. To navigate the uncertainty surrounding Open Source, Create It REAL made the choice of an “in-between”, where the option to open is left for future decisions. In parallel, Create It REAL is very open about the activities they are working on. Not being open source fosters innovation but by staying close to open source, it enables compatibility, flexibility and acceptance from makers.

Thus, Created It REAL seeks to find a middle-ground, the right balance between commercial activities and openness.

For more detailed information please have a look at our report and the Create it REAL website.

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Case study: Fab lab Barcelona – Southern Europe’s most advanced digital production laboratory

Fab Lab Barcelona is one of the 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.

Fab Lab Barcelona is part of IAAC, an international centre for education, fabrication and research dedicated on developing architecture capable of meeting global challenges in constructing 21st century habitability. Besides the Fab Lab in the city of Barcelona, IAAC also provides research opportunities with its Valldaura Labs, a self-sufficient research centre, with a series of labs created to produce and test energy, food and things locally by using close by and available resources to develop technologies and knowledge for services and/or products in the future. The labs include:

  • Green Lab: digital fabrication lab making use of natural resources,
  • Energy Lab: lab for testing the Energrid project, which aims to meet the needs of the Valldaura Labs’ self-sustainable environment
  • Food Lab: food production is handled by researchers and students and makes use of organic gardens, orchards, edible forests products and farm animals.

Fab Lab Barcelona is the head office for the global coordination of Fab Academy programme together with the Fab Foundation and MIT’s Centre for Bits and Atoms. The Fab Academy is a distributed platform of education and research where fab labs around the world operate as classrooms, with students learning the principles, applications and implications of digital manufacturing technology.

The Fablab’s income derives from three main sources: educational activities (Masters Programme, Fab Academy, workshops); grants (particularly from the EU) and research grants; and from Fab Pro Services (provides access to professionals outside of IAAC).

Fablab Barcelona is led by its director, Tomas Diaz. It follows a horizontal management structure, where group leaders have the final responsibility for their respective working group.

Fablab Barcelona is embedded in a network with neighbouring Fablabs, thus the lab shares expertise and services with smaller labs supporting access to digital fabrication for citizens.

The value and impact of Fablab Barcelona is seen in multiple ways: in changing opinions and behaviours in the sense of not only empowerment through making something of your own, but also being in touch with a community of people who are just like you; and education and human capital.

For more detailed information please have a look at our report and the Fablab Barcelona website.

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Are makers social in their endeavour?

Are makers social in their endeavour? This question is addressed in the paper “Makers’ ambitions to do socially valuable things” (Unterfrauner & Voigt, 2017), presented at the Design for the Next Conference in Rome and now published in The Design Journal (free copies are available here).

The study in based on a cross-case analysis of ten European maker initiatives and 30 semi-structured interviews, which have been analysed by qualitative methods. In the article we summarise aspects of social making and present examples of maker initiatives that prove to be social in one way or the other in the sense that the invention is beneficial for others or for the community.

We discuss in the paper the value of making and the role of openness and sharing and in more detail crucial social elements of making, i.e. education, inclusion and environmentalism. You can find the paper and the presentation we used in Rome down below.

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