MIT’s Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab) Makes Its Way To Kerala
The Kerala Startup mission is setting up Fab Labs in the state in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Centre of Bits and Atoms. Dr Neil Gershenfeld, director of the MIT Centre for Bits and Atoms, who pioneered the concept of fab lab, met Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and held discussions on setting up the Fab Labs.
“There has been a digital revolution in communication. Now it is time for a digital revolution in fabrication, where data is turned into products,” says Dr Gershenfeld adding that Fab Labs are a new kind of infrastructure for the state.
Fab Labs (Fabrication Laboratories) are facilities where people with minimal training can design and manufacture any product using advanced manufacturing machines linked to a computer. “The Fab Lab provides young innovators in Kerala the technology to design and make their own stuff – an environment where they can walk in with an idea and walk out with a product,” says Mr. P H Kurian, IAS, Principal Secretary (Industries & IT), Govt of Kerala.
Usually entrepreneurs will have to go to several places to produce the parts of their products. The circuit board may be manufactured at one place, the cover at another, and the packaging done at a third place. A Fab Lab provides the facilities to make all these under a single roof. Thus it enables an entrepreneur to make a prototype of the actual product and display it to the market and to other stakeholders. In short it is a technical prototyping platform for innovation and invention.
That is not all. A Fab Lab is a window to the world of technology entrepreneurs. It also doubles up as a knowledge sharing network that connectsto a global community of learners, educators, technologists, researchers, makers and innovators across the globe. All Fab Labs share common tools and processes and helps in learning and innovation.
The fabrication labs are being set up as part of the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme of the State Government. Each of the Fab Labs are being setup at a cost of Rs 1.5 crore. Kerala Startup Mission (formerly Technopark-TBI) is the implementing agency for the project.
The Fab Lab in Thiruvananthapuram will be located in the Indian Institute of Information Technology learn and Management-Kerala campus, in Technopark, while Startup Village will host the Fab Lab in Kochi.
The Fab Labs will be the most equipped ones in the country, having around 15 different equipments, that could be used to fabricate complex hardware products. The equipments present include the Shopbot CNC mill, capable of performing tasks such as precision cutting, carving, drilling or machining, an industrial 3D printer, a laser cutter, printed circuit board miller, vinyl cutter, moulding machines, mini furnaces, systems, desktops and the needed software.
Experts from MIT will train a group of 10-12 selected persons for a week at Startup Village on the functioning of the Fab Lab. These people will in turn train the entrepreneurs who want to use the facility, to build prototypes of their products.
The startup companies in the Startup Village will be able to use the fab lab for free, and they will only have to pay for the consumables they use in building their product. 10 teams can work in the fab lab at a time. The Startup village is also planning to open the facility to student startups in colleges.
It is expected that the Fab Labs will encourage the creation of hardware based startups in the state. The Fab Labs will be operational in a few days’ time.
The state is also looking at ways to expand the Fab Lab network to the engineering colleges in the state.