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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “Case Study: Fablab TI, Denmark” »

Read More ...

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.


Continue reading “Show, exchange and inspire – the Tartu Mini Maker Faire” »

Read More ...

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.

Read More ...

Robot Battle’s Smashing Success

On 28 September, as one of the main events of the 2017 edition of the national Researchers’ Night Festival in Estonia, Science Centre AHHAA organized the second robot battle for engineering enthusiasts all over the country.

The robots held their matches in 2 categories, 10 in the lightweight category of 0-25 kg and 4 in the mid-weight category of 25 to 50 kg. Due to the popularity of the event, the fight time in each round of the battle was shortened from 3 minutes to 2 minutes and took place on a 6 x 6 m arena.

The battle proved to be spectacularly popular among festival-goers with more than 800  ticketed visitors squeezing themselves into the event location and another 100 being sent back from the doors due to cramped conditions in the room. Despite the low levels of oxygen and high levels of battle-related smoke, the crowd cheered on while the robots skillfully crashed into each other, trying to eliminate their opponents.

The audience’s favourite robot (according to the poll) was C!F!T!, a machine built by a group of engineers with the help of sponsors that managed to captivate the audience’s attention due to its lift-and-throw pneumatic weapon that proved to be unbeatable. For the same reason, C!F!T! also became the winner in the mid-weight class, being granted a 700 € prize.

In the lightweight class, most robots were equally durable but the triangular veneer- and metal sheet construction of a robot called Rüütel (’The Knight’) built by a father-son team showed its perseverence in every round and was crowned the winner of the class, happily taking home 500 € of prize money.

A robot that got the attention of the youngest audience members and did a brave comeback was built by an all-female team and called Malibu Barbie v 2.0. Fittinlgy painted bright pink and decorared with a Barbie doll, the robot did suffer some weapon triggering issues but finished all of its rounds with hardly any damages. Rumour has it, the version 3.0 is already in the making.
Continue reading “Robot Battle’s Smashing Success” »

Read More ...

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.

Read More ...

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.

Continue reading “Are makers social in their endeavour?” »

Read More ...

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).

 

Read More ...

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

 

Read More ...

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.

Continue reading “Lessons learnt from our in-depth cross-case analysis of 10 maker initiatives in Europe” »

Read More ...

Notes for future research on the impact of the Fab Lab network

For more than 10 years, the global Fab Lab network gathers each year in a conference/symposium/meeting where its members can meet, discuss and share ideas, projects, knowledge and collaboration. This year FAB13, the 13th edition, was held in Santiago de Chile with “Fabricating Society” as its central topic during July 31 – August 6 2017. Unfortunately I could not attend it, so I’m not going to discuss the event, but here you can find pictures and videos of the event and here a complete overview of what happened during FAB13.

What I’d like to talk about here is that these FAB events usually have a small research track where members of the community present scientific papers about their activities and research, and this year its topic followed closely the topic of the main conference: “Fab Labs and Society” (and I was part of the program committee and reviewed some contributions). You can read the complete book of the proceedings here and download it here, and since some papers were only available as abstracts for the conference you can find the final version of all papers here. Beside the papers, the editors of the proceedings kindly invited me and other researchers to provide an article for the proceedings without a peer review evaluation (more like a book chapter), and I wrote a short chapter with notes for future research on the impact of the Fab Lab network. This short contribution aims at proposing a set of research questions for the Fab Lab network, that should be considered more as notes shared among members of the community than as a structured research proposal. Furthermore, this was the opportunity to reflect about how to improve our understanding of the impact of the Fab Lab network and of the Maker movement, a very strategic issue that I think it is still under researched. Luckily, MAKE-IT is one of the first contributions towards exploring this dimension, and in the article I also explains why I think MAKE-IT could be useful for researchers and the Fab Lab network in this direction.

You can read the article in the book of proceedings or its draft here below, under the Publication page, or on Academia.edu here and on ResearchGate here.
Continue reading “Notes for future research on the impact of the Fab Lab network” »

Read More ...