What is a fab lab?

Fab Lab is a network of experimental, independent workshops equipped with the latest digital fabrication tools, such as 3D printers and laser cutters. The aim is to develop a horizontally-linked network of workshops that share self-fabrication, with a sustainable maker culture.

Fab is for both “fabrication” and “fabulous”, and the spread of fab labs widens the individual’s freedom to make. This name was chosen to foster the idea that people can make the things they use themselves. There are more than 300 fab labs in the world, and 15 of them are operated in Japan, many run in different ways by their teams.

Definition / requirements of a fab lab

A fab lab is a workshop that satisfies the 7 conditions below.

  1. It is run under the principles of the Fab Charter (see below)
  2. It displays a printed copy of the Fab Charter and communicates the fact that it is one of the fab labs in the country to its local community
  3. It is open at least one day a week on a free or trade-by-barter basis to its local community
  4. It has a web site where the way to use the fab lab and available tools are made clear
  5. It has some of the basic minimum fabrication tools: laser cutter, CNC milling machine, CNC router, paper cutter, video conferencing system (optional: sewing machine, 3D printer)
  6. It is active on the web, sharing self-fabrication information, open-source software, etc.
  7. It takes part in the International Fab Lab Conference, and is registered on the list of worldwide fab labs, being easily found by all fablabbers in the world

The Fab Charter

The Fab Charter is a shared series of basic principles, and operation guidelines. A facility that calls itself a fab lab should have these on its website and on site, so that users can be aware of them.

What is a fab lab?

Fab labs are a global network of local labs, enabling invention by providing access to tools for digital fabrication

What’s in a fab lab?

Fab labs share an evolving inventory of core capabilities to make (almost) anything, allowing people and projects to be shared

What does the fab lab network provide?

Operational, educational, technical, financial, and logistical assistance beyond what’s available within one lab

Who can use a fab lab?

Fab labs are available as a community resource, offering open access for individuals as well as scheduled access for programs

What are your responsibilities?

  • Safety: not hurting people or machines
  • Operations: assisting with cleaning, maintaining, and improving the lab
  • Knowledge: contributing to documentation and instruction

Who owns fab lab inventions?

Designs and processes developed in fab labs can be protected and sold however an inventor chooses, but should remain available for individuals to use and learn from

How can businesses use a fab lab?

Commercial activities can be prototyped and incubated in a fab lab, but they must not conflict with other uses, they should grow beyond rather than within the lab, and they are expected to benefit the inventors, labs, and networks that contribute to their success