Fabrication Laboratories, Fablabs, are small-scale workshops which offer Digital Fabrication, and were initiated and pioneered by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA). It has a massive global network which accounts to more than 1,000 Fablabs around the world, and even in Kenya, there are two Fablabs, University of Nairobi hosting one.
Dr. Shohei Aoki, Project Research Associate of Keio University, who has collaborated with many African countries including Ghana since 2012, elucidated that ‘The unique thing about Fablabs is that you can share the design, knowledge and experience with others’. This was during a Special Open Seminar he delivered at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, 19th September, 2018 at Innovation and Prototyping Integrated Centre (iPIC) seminar room.
He shared on a variety of fabrication techniques, some from personal experiences where he used his fabrication skills to fix his family’s baby bouncer; to where Fablab is used for solve local problems. In the Philippines, for example, a plastic sheet can be produced from waste plastic thus taking care of the environment and 3D printed prosthesis can be done in a Fablab Bohol. In India, a Fablab is promoting rural entrepreneurship, by growing horticultural plants through hydroponics. Tractor and solar egg incubators are also made in the Fablab.
In iPIC, there are 3D printers, laser cutters, PCB milling machines and the scientist envisions iPIC will become a place for everyone: a creative place for students, staffs and even local people. Digital fabrication is based on Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technology using equipment such as 3D printer, Laser Cutter, PCB Milling machine, CNC wood router, and Plasma cutter. The Japanese Scholar explained that with this technique, you can make almost anything in Fablab.
Dr. Aoki who hopes to establish a Fablab at iPiC, says the centre should promote the creation of an atmosphere and culture of innovation. iPiC makes it ideal since it hosts state-of-the-art modern laboratories that are well equipped along with and an innovations’ exhibition space to display the outputs. He emphasized the importance of local knowledge and context when using digital fabrication and explained that lack of resources is rather good riddance since it provides an opportunity for invention.