The DYI culture; Hackerspaces, Makerspaces, FabLabs and Personal Fabrication

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The DYI Culture

A bit of history

  • The Homebrew Computer Club – 1975
  • The Whole Earth Catalog – 1968-1972


  • community-operated physical places, where people can meet and work on their projects.
  • Hackerspaces in Ireland:
    • TOG Dublin
    • 091 Labs Galway
    • NEXUS Cork
    • miLKlabs Limerick
miLKlabs -project ideas(2011):
    • Physical Data Artefacts
    • Intelligent Sensing Clothes
    • Open Data Visualisations for Limerick
    • Augmented Reality Layers for Limerick
    • All-Terrain Long Distance Robot (Farmboz)


  • workshops
    • Arduino
    • Squishy circuits
    • Textiles

What is a FabLab?

  • Fabrication Laboratories - personal fabrication - aka small-scale manufacturing enabled by digital technologies
  • Not mass production
  • Potential to empower individuals to create smart devices for themselves.
  • These devices can be tailored to local or personal needs in ways that are not practical or economical using mass production.

How did it all start?

  • The program was started in the Media Lab at MIT, a collaboration between the Grassroots Invention Group and the Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


  • how the content of information relates to its physical representation, and
  • how a community can be powered by technology at the grassroots level.
  • Neil Gershenfeld, the director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA began this as an outreach project of this center
  • The fab lab concept also grew out of a popular class at MIT (MAS.863) named "How To Make (Almost) Anything". The class is still offered in the fall semesters.

The tools

  • A computer-controlled laser cutter, for press-fit assembly of 3D structures from 2D parts ;
  • A sign cutter, to produce printing masks, flexible circuits, and antennas;
  • A precision (micron resolution) milling machine to make three-dimensional molds and surface-mount circuit boards;
  • Programming tools for low-cost high-speed embedded processors;
  • A larger (4'x8') numerically-controlled milling machine, for making furniture- (and house-) sized parts. (not all the labs own this large machine)

Fabrication Supplies 

  • components for building devices and circuits
  • vinyl film,
  • machineable PCB stock,
  • molding, casting and composites materials, resistors, capacitors, chokes, diodes, transistors, regulators, LEDs, photo detectors, thermistors, microcontrollers, resonators, buttons and switches,
  • magnets, headers, jacks and plugs, ribbon cable and connectors, heat shrink tubing,
  • soldering supplies,
  • transducers and stepper motors,
  • carbide cutters
  • end mills.


  • All software that is used in the Fab Lab is either open source or included with the equipment purchased and available free of charge to students. A partial list of the types of software used and particular examples:
  • CAD/CAM (ex: alien.cad, mold.cad)
  • 2D vector (ex: inkscape)
  • 2D raster (ex: GIMP)
  • 3D (ex: SketchUp)
  • Programming (ex: Python, Numpy)
  • Schematic, PCBdesign (ex: Eagle)
  • Circuit modeling (ex: Ngspice)
  • Microcontrollers (ex: Atmel AVR)
  • Milling controller (ex: Modela)
  • Vinyl cutter (ex: CAMM-1)
  • Lasercutter (ex: Epilog)
  • Other resouces


  • The key to a successful Fab Lab is the hours of availability and a good facilitator. It needs to be staffed by a technician familiar with the tools and equipment present. The idea is not for the staff to run operations but to maintain the safety of the lab, although some facilitation is usually necessary. The centers are sometimes attached to a technology incubator or used at an outreach in a community location. The bottom line is that it has to be easy and painless to get to and to use.


  • A videoconference solution can be useful for collaborating with other centers around the world and for getting help and advice.

  • The worldwide FabLab network

The principles behind FabLabs

  • a Fab Lab has to be open to the public, and offer facilitation and guidance;
  • all the designs are uploaded in a library shared with all the other labs worldwide;
  • it has to adhere to the Fab Lab charter.

FabLabs and Hackerspaces

  • FabLabs – run by an organisation of some sorts (university, research centre, innovation centre)
  • Adhering or not to the FabLab chart?
  • Hackerspace – community –led
  • In Germany, only one official FabLab – the rest- hackerspaces.(See Open Design City Berlin)



Other resources:


Position articles:


more articles:


  • Explain the hackerspace concept and outline the types of activities undertaken in a hackerspace.
  • What is Arduino and for whom was it built?
  • Discuss the principles and ideas behind Digital Fabrication and Fabrication Laboratories. Point out the origin of the concept.
  • Outline the types of activities taking place in a FabLab and discuss the means the labs participating in the FabLab network use to collaborate.
  • Outline the main differences between hackerspaces and FabLabs.
Personal tools