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The FabLab offers its members the opportunity to realize their own projects with the help of various machines. The concept of the FabLab was developed by MIT and now represents a worldwide network of local labs that give access to a wide variety of manufacturing machines. The electronics laboratory, the wood workshop and the digital workshop offer space for a wide variety of projects. Open licenses and open-source files enable the global distribution of digital designs, Creative Commons and hardware licenses make ideas publicly available. The power supply of the FabLab comes entirely from natural electricity, such as solar, wind energy or hydropower.

The low-threshold access to the equipment is an essential part of the FabLab, know-how is passed on with courses, workshops and thanks to voluntary helpers, the laboratory can operate without personnel costs. The annual membership is CHF 156.- including the introductory courses for the devices such as the CNC milling machine, laser cutter or 3D printer enable independent work in the milling workshop. New visitors are welcome too and can work in the public space. Machine hours are also billed, unless you put your project under the "FreeFab" concept, with which the FabLab provides machine hours and material costs for submitted projects in exchange for detailed instructions and files.

Link to the website: www.zurich.fablab.ch

Interview with FabLab*

*The interviewed person wants ro remain anonymous and speaks for the whole FabLab-Team

I: What is the "FabLab"?

P: The concept of the "FabLab" originates from MIT and it is about digital fabrication and access to expensive machinery. We are an open workshop that offers 3D printers, laser cutter and a CNC milling machine for example. The idea was that if all had the same machines to produce different gadgets, then we can share digital designs over the entire globe and support other producers in another country and the other way round. Open licenses are important to share knowledge legally, further we work with Opensource Hardware and with Creative Commons I am able to open up my Copyright of a product. We are organized as an association and offer laser printers, a wood workshop, and an electronic laboratory. Further, we organize events, like the repair Cafe, where people can bring their broken devices and repair it themselves. There is always someone here to guide and support customers.

I: In what way is the "FabLab" sustainable?

P: Repairing is surely very important for sustainability, instead of throwing broken things away. The "FabLab" as space for exchange of knowledge and for passing our own skills is also an essential part of the "Maker-movement". It is very important to have a space like this to come together and discuss possible projects. However, sustainability is hard to achieve, because most visitors do projects as a hobby and use material that they would not have used otherwise, and the production of waste is not sustainably as well. Some are very critical of this development, that we use electronic kits that are rarely used afterwards. But on the other hand, we can repair things with the 3D printer, like old spare parts for a washing machine, that would not have been possible elsewhere.

I: How could the city of Zürich help its citizens to become more sustainable?

P: The "FabLab" is like a centralized version of a private workshop and the idea was that it is to expensive to own such machines on our own. When we look to Barcelona where they have one FabLab per city quarter, it is a larger city than Zürich, but it is needed in a useful perimeter in order to give access to the entire city. This would empower the population to do more things on their own. But maybe this is a romantic view of the world and in the end it is more efficient to buy a new vacuum cleaner or hair drier, instead of fixing it. But it certainly gives enjoyment to the visitors, if we are able to repair the device.

I: How do you handle the waste produced in the "FabLab"?

P: Normally we try to use everything that can be reused in order to get the optimum out of the materials. There are some recycling projects with the plastic waste of the 3D printer, to make new filament out of it. But we bring larger things to recycling station and we want that most visitors take their gadgets back home.

Workshop FabLab (Image: www.zurich.fablab.ch)

Desk at Workshop FabLab (Image: www.zurich.fablab.ch)