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Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 1 month ago

What are these Fab Labs?

Fab Labs are community facilities in which regular people can use highly precise manufacturing and engineering equipment. These labs are located in a number of places around the world, mostly in communities of economic need.


For more information on the Fab Lab Project, see

To find out about the South Africa Fab Lab initiative, see


Ok so we got to the Capetown lab. Nice people. They had an open lab session on Saturdays from 9-12, and were gracious to stay a bit later than scheduled.


They are doing some really neat stuff with the laser and the modela. It appears that they also used the vinyl cutter to make signs on the glass windows. Nice design.


There were five people working the lab. Two were staffing it, from the university, Ettienne and Chris. The others were an industrial designer, a fine artist and a graphic designer.


Ettiene (doubt I have the spelling of his name right) showed us around and he explained some of the work that the lab has been doing. He graciouly helped Liz and Angela create GIK pieces so they could make a model of a person they saw in the examples section of the lab. They made some orange plexi pieces, he did the design work in rhino, then cut on the laser. We have the pieces in a bit of cloth, and will use them to make all manner of oddities as we travel.


The laser was running nonstop for the whole time we were there, as was the modela. Chris, I think he works or lives there, but didn't lock the door, was running some test files to create 3d models of some bumps in plexi. Earlier in the week he had made some test files of positive and negative shapes on the mill. This was a larger scale part that was going to run for 25 hours before the part was done. Yikes. He had lots of examples of experiments that he had done on both the laser and the mill. He is prolific and methodical about experimenting with the tools. When we left, the modela was grinding away on a finish pass. It is apparently the only tool they can run when the place is vacant.


While talking with Chris and Brett about Fab Central, I showed them some of the tutorials that I had posted. They were interested in the Eagle document, but admitted being a bit intimidated by eagle, and electronics in general. They seemed to think that the tutorial might help them get started. I told them of what a wiz Ed Baafi is with Eagle and how it would be good to create some back and forth with them being so good on certain tools, and others being proficient on other tools. I told them of my process of doing/writing as I figure out a process or tool, they seemed to think that it might be a helpful process to adopt.


Brett signed up for an account on fabcentral, but we were running out of time and there was a lot going on, so I am hoping that the others will sign up as well.


They are interested in working towards the 4x8 or 2x4 competition. They don't have a lot of plywood, and would like to work in masonite. I said it would probably be fine, but would check with you. They are also concerned about the shipping expense. I could see that they could do real interesting things with the lasercutter, but would have to cut the stock down to fit it in the machine.


Here are some of the needs I saw:

They only have one internet enabled computer in the lab.

They said internet connections are very expensive in local terms due to a monopoly on the telecom system.

They would like to have more back and forth about tools and processes. Sometimes it is more fun not having to figure it out before using the tool.

They would like to know more about electronics and circuit boards.

They are very interested in the torchmate that will be set up in the building soon. It is going in with lots of ventilation in another part of the building. The idea of working 4x8 is exciting to them.


Hopefully on Monday I can get back over there. Mano is apparently on holiday for the next few weeks, and Ettiene will also be out of town. Naturally, I took a pile of photos, which I will post to flickr as I get a chance, only ten pictures at a time...I also conducted a few audio interviews with the people there. Two of those were real good, and should be useful to illustrate what is going on there and what can be done with the labs. Not sure where I will post the files of the recordings. I will see what I can get away with for file size on fab central.


This was fun, and a lot more successful than my previous adventures trying to find and photograph Doctor Joseph Mbele in Tanzania...




Hours The FabLab is open from 9-5, Monday-Friday and from 9-12 on Saturdays. There is no cost to using the lab - only that you adhere to the FabLab rules -


* clean up after yourself !!

* help others !!




Ntombizanele Donker at 021 460 3982 | weyera@cput.ac.za


- 7-1-07

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