Prototype Details: The FabLab

Okay, so having outlined in fairly exhaustive detail exactly what the “game” will do and what it’s for, I want to spend a little time going over each of the prototypes I’ve got on the drawing board. Although the FabLab will actually be the last of the initial “wave” of prototypes, I’m going to talk about it first, mostly because it’s been on my mind lately, so here goes:

First, some background. FabLabs are the invention of Neil Gershenfeld, who teaches a class at MIT called “How to Make (almost!) Anything!” – it’s booked solid for two years in advance, so there’s quite a waiting list to get in.

In the class, Neil proposes a series of machines that, when assembled in the same place and networked together, can be used to create…well, just about anything.

You can find the most up to date list of the recommended equipment here.

The total cost of the lab’s setup, depending on what equipment you select from the choices available, could run you in the vicinity of $125,000. Obviously this is an elephant I’m not planning to eat all in one bite. I’ll add machines as I can afford them.

For starters, the tools below will wind up in the garage of the house I’m planning to build, but the hope is that eventually, I’ll outgrow that space and need a dedicated shop. Here’s a shot of the house, btw:


To that end, I’ll be relying on a pole barn kit (that’s the current thinking, though if a more cost effective method of constructing a large enough space presents itself, I’ll happily gravitate to that instead). In any case, here’s what I had in mind for the building itself:


This building is 30’x 60’x 14′ so gives a solid 1800 square feet of usable space. I may opt for a slightly larger building than this, as we get closer to actually building this prototype, but my sense of it is that this should prove adequate for our needs. I’ve looked at a number of different building options, and so far, this kind of thing offers me the most square footage for the money.

As to the initial stock of machines, the very first thing I’ll want to go is to get an updated and more capable 3d printer. After evaluating the options, I think I’ve settled on the TAZ, although again, this may change as we get closer, but here’s the one I’m most interested in at present: ($2195) This printer in particular was selected because it allows printing in a multitude of materials and supports dual nozzle printing (which I hope to be able to modify further to create my “Hydra” extruder).


I’m also hoping to be able to use this printer to create several “Recycle Bots

The Othermill for circuit boards (primarily) $2199

Update: Othermill may be unnecessary. Voxel8 is now selling a printer that can print circuits directly! (the site has a certificate problem, but I’ve tested it and it’s safe)


For a laser cutter – these are heinously expensive, so for now, I’ll go on the low end and start with a Glowforge Professional ($4795)


And rounding out the initial collection, a full-sized ShopBot ($22,158)


Design software for the lab.

The FabLab will also house a small Comms shack, with a couple of workstations for design and communication with other labs and Holons when they come online.

In all then, about $30k in equipment, and another $5k in initial supplies. Sadly, that’s not nearly all the equipment we’ll ultimately need, but this should give me enough tools in the tool kit to start putting the FabLab on a paying basis, and will enable me to create a stunning number of items from the microfactory. We’ll call this FabLab version 1.0, and build on it iteratively from this.


I suspect I’ll also be spending lots of time on sites like these:
Raspberry with LCD Display

Side note: This printer bears watching.

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