Speakers to show how fab labs unleash creative potential

Wednesday 15 August 2012, 5:10PM
By Hutt City Council


Small-scale manufacturing in what is known as fab labs, or fabrication laboratories, is sweeping the world – and now there’s an opportunity to hear three recognised experts discuss this business revolution.

Sherry Lassiter, Kenny Chung and Nadya Peek, all from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will be in the Hutt to discuss how fab labs are showing the potential for manufacturing processes not yet practical or economical using mass production techniques.

Products to emerge from fab labs range from the weird and wonderful to the whimsical – but all have proved successful for their makers as well as showing potential for use by others. Examples include (in Norway) radio antennas and electronic tags to track sheep; (in India) tools to measure fat content in milk, and LED lights for use in areas without power; and (in America) a security device to photograph anyone coming near the inventor's private writings.

Advocates say fab labs promise to vastly expand the creative powers of tinkerers and usher in a revolution in do-it-yourself design and manufacturing.

The small-scale workshops are usually equipped with a variety of computer-controlled tools of different sizes and capable of working on a range of materials. This low-cost flexibility gives the workshops the ability to tailor output to local or personal needs.

The concept grew out of a popular class at MIT called How To Make (Almost) Anything, which is still available to students.

The United States trio will be in Wellington for the Fab8NZ conference, to be hosted by Massey University’s Wellington campus from August 22-28. They will speak at the Little Theatre, next to War Memorial Library, on August 16, starting at 1pm. The one-hour talk is free.

To learn more about fab labs, see a talk by MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld at