Fab Lab Amsterdam

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Detailed description of the premises, by Aurelie Ghalim in the study, Fabbing Practices:

“Fab Lab Amsterdam is located in the heart of the city on the first floor of a 15th century building. Founded in 2007, this fabrication laboratory is hosted by Waag Society – a non-profit institute for art, science & technology. Its 80 m2 is enough to house the lab itself with a small milling machine (fig.13), 3D printer (fig.2, 3, 8, 9, 18, 19), vinyl cutter (fig.6) and embroidery machine (fig.5) plus electronic tools (fig.14) and a big screen for video conferencing. There are couple of big tables to work on it. Another small room is linked up to the main lab where we find a big milling machine (ShopBot) (fig.12) and a laser cutter, which are the biggest tools. Most of Fab Labs houses a ShopBot - a type of big milling machine – located in a single room for safety matters. It produces a lot of wood shaving and a vacuum has to be connected to the machine. The laser cutter is also located in this small part where we find computers connected to it and to the ShopBot as well. A Laser Cutting Materials/Settings Reference Guide hangs on the wall and has been made with the laser cutter. The idea was to use all the different types of materials that can be cut and/or engraved on the laser cutter. \

One can read on the inscription:

- Materials that CANNOT be cut or engraved: Steel and non-ferro materials such as aluminium, brass, copper and PVC

In the main lab, on the wall next to the screen, there are parts of the Low Cost Prosthesis project (fig.4) – an open source lower leg prosthetic with production costs below $50 – with a detailed explanation (stickers made with the vinyl cutter) just below. We also read that is collaboration between Waag Society and House of Natural Fiber (HONF), which is a new media art laboratory in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Other objects found in the room remind past projects such as a paper bra, a paper dress (fig.17) and a swimsuit (fig.7) put on a model next to the embroidery machine. On another wall, there are many tools (screwdrivers, hammers) hanging. This storage board was created in Fab Lab. The design of working tools was done in Adobe Illustrator with the “tracing” option and then printed with the vinyl cutter. The image had to resemble as much as possible to the actual tools therefore you can place all of them to the right place.

An Ultimaker 3D printer is placed on a table with a stock of three or four different colours of plastic roll. The Ultimaker is a small and low cost DIY 3D printer using FFF technology (Fused Filament Fabrication) with thermoplastic extrusion. There is a table with a lot of electronic tools and a small milling machine. Finally, we find couple of books with titles like: Digitallink Digital Design and Advertising, Analogue Interfacing to Embedded Microprocessors, Linux Cookbook Practical Advice for Linux Users and System Administrator, How to Construct Rietveld Furniture, Materials for Inspirational Design or Model Making. On the big screen we can observe what is going on in other Fab Labs worldwide since they also take part to this videoconferencing system. There is a small kitchen too where we always find a lot of coffee and tea available. There is a table soccer (Fab Foos) built by Alex Schaub (Fab Lab Manager) whose players are Michelangelo’s David character (fig.11). It is an open source table soccer game with two webcams, audio response, and electronic counter system. “The goal was to built the entire table using the machines of the Fablab” , writes Alex on Fab Lab projects page.

People are working in the lab while listening to music. There is a very relax and cool atmosphere that reigns in the place. The other part or the non-laboratory part is called the Zuidlab where either Waag Society employees are working or where conferences and events are held and sometimes Fab Academy class too. We find a table and chairs (fig.10) designed by Jens Dyvik who is a designer using an open and sharing design approach. On the second floor, there is the Theatrum Anatomicum where the Waag organizes events and the Fab Academy Final Projects Presentation takes place.

Many components have been made in the lab such as shelving for the electronics corner or portraits of interns on the wall, called the wall of flame (fig.20): their faces are engraved on wood using the laser engraving technique. A vinyl cutter (fig.6) is on a chest of drawers, which is an example of press-fit construction. This stand with parts connected to each other by press fit only was built for the CAMM 1 GX-24 Vinyl Cutter with the idea to use no glue or nails. It is decorated with vinyl patterns. One of the main principles of fabbing ecology is to replace over time the components of the labs with new components made in the labs and eventually makes Fab Labs totally self-reproducing. One important feature that was also made in the lab is the Fab Charter (fig.1) engraved in a wooden door with the ShopBot. According to Fab Lab policy, the Charter text has to be displayed somewhere in the lab and on the website.

It is a general set of guidelines that all Fab Labs worldwide must share:

- Mission: fab labs are a global network of local labs, enabling invention by providing access for individuals to tools for digital fabrication.

- Access: you can use the fab lab to make almost anything (that doesn’t hurt anyone); you must learn to do it yourself, and you must share use of the lab with other uses and users.

- Education: training in the fab lab is based on doing projects and learning from peers; you’re expected to contribute to documentation and instruction.

- Responsibility: you’re responsible for:

Safety: knowing how to work without hurting people or machines
Cleaning up: leaving the lab cleaner than you found it
Operations: assisting with maintaining, repairing, and reporting on tools, supplies, and incidents

- Secrecy: designs and processes developed in fab labs must remain available for individuals use although intellectual property can be protected however you choose

- Business: commercial activities can be incubated in fab labs but they must not conflict with open access, 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. (Drafted August 30, 2007)

Fab Lab Amsterdam has open days (open lab days) every Tuesday and Thursday. On these days, participants can use for free the equipment that they have previously booked online. They must documents their work and share their knowledge. For commercial use, there is a charge per hour to use exclusively equipment and space during office hours (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). For individuals, the charge is € 75 per hour (and € 50 for non-profit project) and if groups want to hire the lab for a (half) day the cost is from € 200 to € 1400 .

In the description of Fab Lab Amsterdam, we can first highlight the interest of participants in Arts and Crafts since it is a top priority to make in DIY manner components of the lab in the lab itself. From a Fab perspective, there is a demand in a “renewed understanding for craftsmanship in relation to the design and production principles of the 21st Century” . Arts and Crafts movement was a direct reaction against the industrial world of the late 19th Century and advocated to a return to personalized creation – craft. We observe in the lab a juxtaposition of old and new techniques – state-of-the-art manufacturing tools conjoining with an array of traditional tools – and the desire to make unique objects. Personalization and individualization in establishing connection between the people and objects are typical elements in Fab Lab environment. Secondly, we also see the importance to build and be part of a global network, which is the reason for installing teleconferencing system. Finally, the objects found in the lab are examples of open source design. Their design are freely made available online and can be replicate anytime. Openness or open philosophy is another trend that defines Fab ecology."