The origins of FAB can be traced back to the work of MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld and his pioneering book Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop — from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication. Gershenfeld posits that in a not-too-distant future individuals will be able to create their own designs thanks to new technologies that enable ‘personal fabrication’. Where once powerful machinery was reserved to the world of large industry, modern machines such as 3D printers and laser cutters will soon be available to consumers in the same way as personal computers.
One of the crucial moments for the FAB movement came in 2010 when a group of FAB enthusiasts decided to open the very first FABLab in Japan. The space was designed to make it possible for members of the public to access some of the most cutting-edge technology used in industry and design. The aim was also to create a community of FAB-ers who could collaborate to share ideas and drive innovation.
After the success of the initial FABLab in Japan, it wasn’t long before similar projects appeared elsewhere – the FABCafé in Taipei opened in 2013 and in 2014, the FABCafé Barcelona; today there are five official FABCafés worldwide. Why FABCafé? Because as well as a design studio, the space also runs as a café open to the public. This creates a safe space for those curious about personal fabrication to come discover the machines and meet fellow FAB-ers before taking the leap.
Barcelona is renowned for attracting a young, cosmopolitan crowd of movers and shakers and today a growing number of the local community are showing an interest in FAB. Whether it’s an auto-entrepreneur looking for an affordable way to create their own products, or an artist looking to experiment with new formats, the range of people visiting the FABCafé is diverse.
Here in Barcelona there are currently a number of scanners, printers and cutters available to use at the FABCafé. The Trotec Speedy Flexx 400 makes it easy to cut through a wide range of materials such as plastic, leather, wood and paper, while the Prusa i3 and Up! Plus 2 3D printers enable you to print your own designs in a range of shapes and sizes. You can either come with your own file or consult a catalogue of available product files.
Another interesting piece of equipment is the Structure Sensor, which attaches to an iPad and enables you to scan the shape of any object in front of you and convert it into a printer-readable file. Scan your best friend’s face and print out a 3D model of it as a fun gift. Prices for all the machines are worked out either via how long you use the machine for or by the size of the object you’re printing.
On the future of FAB in Barcelona, the co-founder Cecilia Tham remarked that ‘this business isn’t really about tools and machinery, it is about building communities to foster innovation together. The value is what people can create and invent with these machines’.