Fab Labs: Making Manufacturing Cool?

Fab Labs-- Making Manufacturing Cool?It looks like we’re not the only ones trying to show people that manufacturing is cool.

An article recently published by Environment & Energy Publishing talks about the Fab Lab movement and how it’s on the forefront of the movement to make manufacturing cool again.

Fab Labs–or fabrication laboratories–are popping up all over the country and giving young people the opportunity to experiment in making different things. TechShop, the first commercial Fab Lab, has labs around the country that are packed with machines like plasma cutters, milling machines, 3-D printers and “iron workers” capable of drilling neat holes in thick steel.

TechShops are open to anyone willing to pay the membership fee, and even if you would rather not pay, there are still many nonprofit Fab Labs all around the United States.

But what’s important isn’t the membership fee, or the owner of the venue, or even the specific location–it’s the fact that shops like these around the country are allowing people the ability to use great manufacturing tools and equipment to experiment with making things that they wouldn’t be able to make otherwise.

The article from Environment & Energy Publishing explains things pretty well:

“One of the problems in manufacturing is it is not seen as cool, whereas working at Twitter is seen as cool, and that means there are a lot fewer kids getting into machining, for instance,” said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). “One of the useful aspects of the maker movement … is that they can expose a broader range of people to important skills of manufacturing.”

These shops, which give direction to users, but which also give them the opportunity to experiment–sometimes failing, and sometimes succeeding–help promote creativity and the desire to make things at a time where job openings in manufacturing are very high.

And the owner of TechShop isn’t the only one interested in helping spread this desire to create: different organizations, from GE, to MIT, and even local inventors, are all working towards teaching the newest generation that manufacturing is cool and that it’s okay to want to make things.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any Fab Labs currently here in Nebraska. We expect that to change very soon, but if you’re ever traveling or visiting somewhere that there is a Fab Lab, we definitely recommend stopping by and having a look. The opportunity to create and use cool new technology is very important, and you have a lot to gain by sitting down and experimenting with the best of what manufacturing has to offer.

Even though there aren’t any Fab Labs here, there are still opportunities to get out there and see manufacturing hands-on, like the factory tours happening this Friday for MFG Day 2013. So get out there and take a look! We bet you’ll be surprised at what you’ve been missing out on.

photo credit: kakissel via photopin cc