Author: Elisabeth Unterfrauner


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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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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Case study: Fab Lab Zagreb – the first FabLab in Croatia

Fab Lab Zagreb (FLZ) 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 Zagreb is the first Fab Lab that was established in Croatia. It is registered as an NGO and maintains close ties with the Faculty of Architecture at Zagreb University, where it is currently located. Fab Lab Zagreb’s main mission is to promote digital fabrication to a general public in cooperation with similar organizations on local level and internationally.

Fab Lab Zagreb is strongly connected to its current president and manager, Roberto Vdović, who also teaches at the Faculty of Architecture University of Zagreb. Being pioneers in 3D desktop printing in Croatia, Roberto and two colleagues established the first Fab Lab in Croatia in 2013 and registered it according to the Fab Lab charter.

Fab Lab Zagreb follows three core missions:

The first one is taking a leading role in educational aspect connected to the whole maker and DIY movement ([email protected]): how to engage general population to use new digital fabrication technologies to improve STEAM skills, by connecting different education levels, and experiences.

The second mission is highly relevant for the local community (Give-a-hand):  to be inspired by the local community problems and issues and find solutions using new technology, DIY (Do it yourself), DIWO (Do It With Others), find individual solutions and solutions for the community. Thus, Fab Lab Zagreb has a strong commitment to solving a wide range of social and other needs and moving towards contributing to meeting wider societal challenges in these areas. It addresses and involves children, unemployed people, people with disabilities, artists and students.

The third mission is supporting entrepreneurship (Do Local Go Global): it is related to the previous mission. If locally inspired solutions become interesting for global markets, they can be developed in the maker space (such as MakerBuino).

In addition, FLZ it is strictly following an open source ethos and promoting openness as part of their educational message. It serves as an entry space for their first experiences with digital fabrication. Fab Lab Zagreb puts a focus on interdisciplinarity in their activities and events, again, with a special focus on achieving educational goals and social goals.

For more detailed information please have a look at our report and the FLZ website (in Croatian).

 

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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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Lessons learnt from our in-depth cross-case analysis of 10 maker initiatives in Europe

We have distilled 10 lessons learnt from our in-depth cross-case analysis of 10 maker initiatives in Europe.

Here comes lesson 1:

Although currently we hardly see a major shift in the production of products in general, i.e. from centralised to de-centralised production, we recognise that maker products have a unique selling proposition since products serve niche markets.

Lesson 2:

Maker products have the advantage to responsively take into account individual user needs. Thus personalised and customised products can be developed effectively and fast.

Lesson 3:

 

Maker initiatives but also makers themselves have a dense network of links to different stakeholder groups, especially to educational institutions. These networks seem to be key for achieving sustainability.

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D3.2: Final case study report focusing on cross-case analysis

Deliverable 3.2 represents the in-depth cross-case analysis, highlighting the communalities and diverging approaches of different maker cases and aims at answering the research questions that were defined in previous work (Check out the previous deliverable D3.1 on its page). This deliverable thus builds on the collected data of ten case studies of maker initiatives in eight different European countries, spanning from maker spaces and fablabs to companies operating at the interface between makers and industry: Fablab Barcelona (Spain), Arduino (Italy), Smart Bending Factory (the Netherlands), Mini Maker Faire (Estonia), Happylab Vienna (Austria), DTI lab (Denmark), Dezentrale (Germany), HRW lab (Germany), Create It Real (Denmark), and FabLab Zagreb (Croatia).

In total, 39 interviews with managers of these initiatives as well as makers were transcribed and complemented by self-reporting sheets filled in by managers. The collected material was subsequently analysed with qualitative analysis methods in an explorative and structuring way combining deductive and inductive coding approaches. While all deductive codes were based on the three research pillars with its various research themes and potential research questions as identified in D2.1, in the inductive approach additional new codes directly evolved from the material. All the material was coded in two rounds by different researchers to safeguard maximal reliability and validity of the process. The analysis resulted in around 1,700 deductive codings, which built the basis for the work on the pre-defined research themes. With the aim to base the work on pre-existing knowledge and to complement and support the findings of our qualitative analysis, the literature cited in D2.1 was revisited and additional literature was integrated. This resulted in a rich data set that reveals quite some research gaps that have not been or only partially been addressed in research so far. Thus, the study represents one of few attempts to collect (qualitative) data on maker initiatives concerning manifold dimensions and critical issues and thus is able to reveal interesting findings adding value to the state-of-the-art in the field.

We just released the results in Deliverable D3.2 here below or also on its page, where you can also comment it.

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D3.1: case study on 10 different Maker initiatives

Want to know more about Maker initiatives? How they are organized? How the Maker community forms around the initiative and how makers learn from each other? Which values are important and which impact is created in Maker initiatives?

These are the fundamental research questions that we have addressed in case studies in 10 different Maker initiatives in Europe. We have conducted in total 39 interviews with managers of these initiatives and makers which build the basis for in-depth case descriptions that range from Makerspaces and Fab Labs such as Fab Lab Barcelona in Spain, Happylab Vienna in Austria, DTI Fab Lab in Denmark, HRW Fab Lab and Dezentrale in Germany, and Fab Lab Zagreb in Croatia to companies operating at the interface between making and industry, such as Arduino in Italy, Smart Bending Factory in the Netherlands and Create It Real in Denmark and a Maker Faire, namely the Mini Maker Faire Tartu in Estonia.

We just released the results of the case study in Deliverable D3.1 here below or also on its page, where you can also comment it.

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