Gershenfeld wanted to introduce expensive, industrial-size machines to the technical students. However, this class attracted a lot of students from various backgrounds: artists, architects, designers, students without any technical background. In his interview to CNN , Gershenfeld said that "the students Gershenfeld feels very passionate about this project, as he believes that teaching kids how to use technology and create it themselves will empower the future generations to become more independent and create technology that each individual community needs, not a technology that is currently available on the market. Fab labs have spread around the world, having been established in the remotest of places and countries.

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Call it a factory on your desktop. Call it a Fab Lab. Neil Gershenfeld says the day is coming when we can design and produce our own products at home with a device called a personal fabricator. Simply download the description of say, a toaster, feed the design and materials into this machine that makes machines, push a button, and out comes the toaster. Gershenfeld hopes to bring high-tech manufacturing to the masses and says it will soon be possible for us to create any object we desire — from a toy to a gadget to even another personal fabricator.

He says that personal fabricators are about to revolutionize the world just as personal computers did a generation ago. He predicts that soon in every home we will have a personal fabricator on our desktops, along with a computer and printer. On this day, he is talking about how he was wholly surprised the day it all began. They were there because they wanted to make something. People are trying to sell anything to anyone. People are creative, and in this class, I stumbled across just how passionate people become when they can control their own technological futures.

The labs are empowering people in developing countries, who may lack the education and resources to implement their ideas, by giving them the ability to design and create tools they need to solve local problems.

Local students are now using a Fab Lab to build a sensor to give the farmers an exact measure of the fat content. And in Takoradi, Ghana, engineers are working on a solar-energy project to bring power to the villages. Interest is exploding. Among the challenges, he says, is figuring out how to fund work that is neither traditional research in a lab nor traditional aid in the field.

To help, MIT is now entering into research partnerships with institutions and governments; a Fab Foundation is being launched to coordinate the growing global network; and a Fab Fund has been launched to invest in small-scale, high-tech Fab Lab businesses.


Neil Gershenfeld

Teaching Learning and Living Neil Gershenfeld has been called the intellectual father of the maker movement. How did fab labs get started? Inspired by what the students were doing in the class, and by the analogy with the history of minicomputers which came between mainframes and PCs , my colleagues and I developed fab labs as an outreach project for the National Science Foundation. We put together a package of the most-used tools and processes from our shop to take into the field, including 3-D printing, scanning, and design; laser cutting, machining, molding, and casting; and electronics production, assembly, and programming. That cost is coming down as the equivalent of PCs for fabrication emerge, and also going up as regional super-fab-labs appear. Where are fab labs located? How are they used?


3 Questions: Neil Gershenfeld and the spread of Fab Labs

Media can only be downloaded from the desktop version of this website. He developed self-contained fabrication shops equipped with the latest rapid-prototyping equipment — laser cutters, computer-controlled milling machines, 3-D printers, and so on — that could be easily installed anywhere in the world. MIT News asked Gershenfeld to describe the growth and impact of this project. Q: I understand that the core of the Fab Lab idea has to do with the concept of digital fabrication. Just what is digital fabrication?

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