Fab Lab Reykjavík teaches people how to make almost anything
“How to make almost anything” is the thesis statement of the global Fab Lab movement. Fab Labs – short for Fabrication Laboraories – are essentially small-scale workshops for personal fabrication. They are equipped with the necessary tools, resources and knowledge to make almost anything. Often associated with DIY philosophies and the maker-movement, Fab Labs are operated around the world in over 100 countries, with more than 1750 labs worldwide — 12 of them are located right here in Iceland.
From Massachusetts to Vestmannaeyjar
Spreading from its roots at the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the original concept behind Fab Labs was a course called “How To Make Almost Anything.”
“They expected the programme to be filled with young engineers, interested in utilising their knowledge,” explains Þóra Óskarsdóttir, programme director of Fab Lab Reykjavík. “That was incorrect. Instead, it got filled with all kinds of people across the university.”
The concept took root in Iceland in 2008. Interestingly, the first Icelandic Fab Lab was in the Westman Islands. Reykjavík followed suit and opened a lab in 2014. It’s now the country’s largest Fab Lab and the only one located in the capital area.
“We have a wide group of users,” Þóra explains. “Everywhere from people learning the basics to folks trying to fix their stuff. We also serve entrepreneurs, who are usually developing green innovation solutions. So, we have a wide breadth, but focus on building a DIY community for people to support each other. That’s an important aspect in every Fab Lab.”
Supporting makers of all kinds
Located in the Fjölbrautarskóli Breiðholts secondary school and open to everyone, the Reykjavík Fab Lab averages around 8,000 annual visits per year. Individuals over the age of 15 can visit on their own, while younger inventors will need a parent or guardian accompanying them. You don’t even need to know what a 3D printer is to start learning. Users do need to pay for materials and use of the machines, though.
“We’ve tried to design the lab in a way that most people can start easily. That doesn’t mean you’ll walk out with a wind turbine on your first visit. You’ll probably start with reflective badges or labelled glasses,” Þóra says. “But it means you’ve tried a certain machine, which develops your understanding of it.”
At Fab Lab, the sky’s the limit – except for one category of items. “Weapons,” Þóra replies sternly when asked what people can’t do at the lab. “What we make here is supposed to improve the environment and society. Harmful items are banned,” she expands. “This is a movement that’s supposed to support community development.”
The Yule Cat’s lost talons
Showcasing some of the items made in the lab, Þóra brings out two large, 3D-printed talons. It turns out that they are intended for the giant Yule Cat display on Lækjartorg, installed every Christmas by the City of Reykjavík. “It lost its claws,” Þóra jokes, demonstrating the lab’s capacity.
Odd jobs aside, Fab Lab has supported the development of a number of entrepreneurs. They are offered the necessary facilities to prototype their inventions. For most users, though, they make use of the lab for their own personal benefits.
“You don’t need to have an idea when you walk in. There are a lot of people that think, ‘I’m going to create something that saves the world.’ We don’t have such high demands. The biggest task is to step over the threshold and decide which machines you want to learn on,” Þóra clarifies.
Now is a perfect time to visit Fab Lab Reykjavík to make personal, handcrafted holiday gifts. Visit their website www.flr.is for more information.
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