Product Details Supplier Info More products

The Manufacturing Institute has announced that the UK’s first Fablab – a hi-tech, easy-access workshop – will open by the end of 2009 in Manchester.

Fablabs (fabrication laboratories) are small-scale workshops with the tools to make almost any object out of glass, metal, plastic or other advanced materials, incorporating electronics and other technologies.

There are 35 Fablabs worldwide, located in US cities and rural India and from the northern tip of Norway to African villages.

Each is connected by a global communications network, enabling the sharing of ideas, designs and knowledge.

The result of an outreach project by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, Fablabs are reversing the top-down approach to technological advancement by empowering everyone to invent and manufacture.

The Manufacturing Institute hopes that the Manchester Fablab will be the first of many for the UK and it has partnered with MIT, Manchester City Council and New East Manchester to open the first centre in east Manchester.

Shepherds in Norway have used their Fablab to create mobile phones to track sheep.

In Afghanistan, Fablabbers are creating a local telecoms infrastructure and prosthetic limbs, while in South Africa a government- and business-backed project is creating simple internet-connected computers that hook up to televisions and cost 10 dollars each.

Other inventions include a web browser for a parrot, an alarm clock you wrestle with to wake you up and a ‘scream body’ that allows you to vent extreme frustration into a soundproof pouch and then release the noise later.

Although typical Fablabs have a technically skilled staff, much of the learning and teaching comes from other users and by communicating with people in other Fablabs internationally.

The philosophy is open source, whereby people use the centre for free in return for sharing full information with the global community.

Businesses and inventors can opt to protect their product development ideas by paying to use the service.

Complete novices can use the centre and receive help in developing their own ideas, or in building some of the products made at other Fablabs using ready made instructions.

The Manchester Fablab will have a direct connection via the internet and real-time video to the Fablab network, so that users can keep in touch, problem-solve and brainstorm ideas with others.

The Manufacturing Institute and Manchester City Council – via the Innovation Investment Fund – are working in conjunction New East Manchester to secure a suitable site in east Manchester that will provide a local community hub and will also be accessible for those travelling in from across Greater Manchester and further afield.

The Manufacturing Institute

View full profile