Innovations take place where there is access to knowledge – and also access to the necessary technical tools, such as 3-D printers, laser cutters or CNC mills. However, many creative minds are young and do not have the money to buy such tools, and often they have to use such machines only occasionally anyway, for example, for the manufacturing of prototypes.
This is where FabLabs come into play. They are open workshops accessible to all. Such fabrication laboratories exist already in Potsdam and Wildau. In the future, a mobile FabLab might go on tour in Brandenburg.
A prototype was presented at the conference “Innovationskonferenz Design” in the framework of “Brandenburg’s Design Days” (“Designtage Brandenburg”) in Potsdam: a double-decker bus equipped with all the necessary tools. “The main focus is on publicising the idea,” explained Christian Zöllner of the Berlin-based design studio The Constitute, which is in charge of the design. The target group are doers with creative ideas. For example, company founders who need a CNC mill so they can turn the ideas they have developed at a computer into models before starting mass production.
Artists or designers alike can create sculptures or videos for virtual reality goggles. Welcome are also model making enthusiasts who can use the 3-D printer and create individual parts for the models they have designed at their computers; or amateur craftsmen who want to use simple construction kits to build a programmable robot. All of the above-mentioned persons can use the mobile FabLab, which thereby turns into a meeting-place as well. This establishes new contacts, which, in turn, form the basis for new opportunities to arise.
The developers’ scene
The idea behind the FabLabs, which was developed in 2002 at the US elite university MIT, encompasses all of the above. The inventor of the first FabLab, Neil Gershenfeld, wanted to provide the creative developers scene with a suitable tool. Christian Zöllner explains the basic idea thusly: “Knowledge is non-proprietary. I transfer my knowledge free of charge because that is the way I received it.”
Zöllner thinks that the concept will be well received in Brandenburg as well. At the Design Days in Potsdam many visitors flocked to the double-decker bus. The feedback from specialists and the general public was very positive. “We have had a lot of interesting talks,” said Zöllner.
One noteworthy item on display in Potsdam was a 3-D printer that uses ceramic. It works just as the traditional method, which uses plastic: the object is being created slowly layer by layer, but is then fired in a furnace.
Till Meyer, Cluster Manager at the Cluster ICT, Media and Creative Industries brings it to the point: “The FabLab movement stands for a new understanding of the term innovation, which is being seen in a playfully-creative, mobile and flexible light and which does not look at traditional approaches to research and development in isolation.” He also pointed out: “It is all about new approaches to coming up with new ideas and implementing them in many different areas, ranging from machine engineering to medical technologies.”