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FAB@CIC in Boston: What is a Fab Lab and how could you become a maker?

By September 21, 2016No Comments

You have probably heard about 3d printers and laser cutting machines, the future has arrived!

Maybe you are very curious about it but never had the chance to use any of those machines, or felt intimidated by the technology, or you thought it was something for designers, engineers and creative people, not for you.
By the end of this post I want to convince you to visit FAB@CIC and to become a maker yourself.


My name is Camila Gascon, I’m a designer and part of the ImpactHub Boston hosting team, and I recently attended training at Fab@CIC, a new digital fabrication lab at Design Town, which is a coworking community powered by CIC Boston, Design Museum and Fab Foundation.
I’m going to tell a little bit of my journey of learning and experimenting with new things at Fab@CIC, so you can get to know more about the cool things you can create there.

Fab@CIC is a Fab Lab. But what is a Fab Lab?

Fab@CIC is part of a global network of other fabrication laboratories (FabLab’s) that provide access to flexible manufacturing and prototyping machines that can empower people to create new products to solve their own problems, bringing to life different kinds of three-dimensional objects.


It all started as an outreach project from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) which is a interdisciplinary research group that  explores the boundary between computer science and physical science, to put it in simple words,”Turning information into things, and things into information.”

To qualify as a FabLab, each laboratory needs a set of core capabilities, that enable people to create several types of physical objects.

Here there is a list of these core capabilities, and which machines are available at the moment at FAB@CIC:

  • A computer-controlled laser cutter, for press-fit assembly of 3D structures from 2D parts, cutting, and engraving. (Epilog Fusion M232 laser cutter)
  • A precision (micron resolution) milling machine to make three-dimensional molds and surface-mount circuit boards.
  • A Vinyl cutter, to make signs, stickers,  printing masks, flexible circuits, and antennas.
  • A precision milling machine to make three-dimensional molds and surface-mount circuit boards.  ( Roland SRM20 CNC Milling Machine )
  • 3d Printers – ( 4 different models: Form 1, Ultimaker 2, Makerbot, 3DTouch)
  • Dye Sublimation Machine to print and cut fabric to create flags, signage, polyester apparel, custom printed fabrics, and other personalized objects like mugs . (Mimaki TPC-1000 Dye Sublimation Machine)

FAB@CIC

Another machine that can be part of a FabLab is a larger numerically-controlled milling machine, for wood and other materials with 4′ x 8′ that can be used to create bigger projects like furniture and even housing. We don’t have one at Fab@CIC, as these machines are big and can create noise and dust (so it wouldn’t be appropriate for the space at CIC Boston).

It’s more than just a place with tools! To qualify as a FabLab, a space needs to follow a set of guidelines known as the Fab Charter.

fabcharter-post

 

As of September 2016 there are 692 FabLabs registered in the world, from downtown Boston to rural India, from South Africa to the North of Norway. 120 of them are in the United States, with more in the pipeline.

The Fab Foundation is the organization responsible for facilitating the growth of the international FabLab network as well as the development of regional capacity-building organizations. Activities in FabLabs range from small-scale high-tech business incubation to grass-roots research.working at FabLab


All FabLabs have the same kind of machines to make it easier for makers all around the world to share files and manufacture objects from other makers. Projects include solar and wind-powered turbines, thin-client computers and wireless data networks, analytical instrumentation for agriculture and healthcare, custom housing, and rapid-prototyping of rapid-prototyping machines! In my next post, I’ll be sharing my own experiences in the FabLab!