Giving wings to dreams

The Fab Lab in Technopark is a high-tech workshop where anyone and everyone can work on an idea and make a prototype

March 10, 2016 04:37 pm | Updated 04:37 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

A view from inside the Fab Lab at Technopark

A view from inside the Fab Lab at Technopark

Wannabe entrepreneurs are giving shape to their ‘Make in India’ dream at Fab Lab Academy. Each nurtures a dream of a future where his/her DIY project becomes a financially viable business model to power their entrepreneurial skills. And the new Fab Lab at Technopark helps them experiment and put their ideas into practice through trial and error.

Nisha Elsa Johnson, one of the participants, dreams of making ergonomic, smart furniture. “Fab Labs take DIY to the next level. It is about taking technology to the public. It is going to change the way people make things,” sums up Kavita Arora, founder, Bangalore Makespace, a makers’ community, and a participant of the Fab Academy session, a six-month outreach project being conducted at Fab Labs across the globe.

Fab Lab, a platform for learning and innovation, is where you can create, share, teach, and even play. It is a component of Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2015 the Kerala Startup Mission collaborated with MIT to open two Fab Labs in Kerala, one in the capital city and the other in Kochi.

“It is always exciting when you think about making something on your own. For me being at the Fab Lab is not just about being an entrepreneur. I also want to encourage more women to try their hand at entrepreneurship,” says Nisha.

To help creative minds like her are various computer-controlled high-end tools and machines at the Fab Lab. “These machines aid the maker at every stage of product making. Anyone can work on his/her idea and come up with a prototype. The machines that we have is the best among all the Fab Labs in the country. We have a similar set of machines and equipment in Kochi. The significant aspect is that the machines are so designed that they ensure a pollution free atmosphere in the lab,” says Vinod Kumar B. G., technical officer and Fab Lab coordinator, Kerala Startup Mission.

Fab Lab, set up in June last year, has now opened its doors for the public once a week. Students of many professional colleges in the district and outside have visited the lab to get acquainted with the high-end machines, equipment and other facilities.

“Nowhere will you find such modern technology available for public use. Not even professional colleges have such facilities in their labs. And even if they have, they are inaccessible for students,” says Yadu Sharon from Thrissur, another participant of the Fab Academy programme. His friend, Sibu Saman from Kozhikode seconds the opinion. They plan to set up a fabrication laboratory in future, says Sibu, who wants to work on electrical discharge machining.

Fab Lab often has visitors from various organisations and institutions who want to get acquainted with or use lab facilities such as 3D printer and laser cutter. “Many people come with their designs and take 3D prints. Some of them are from the Technopark itself. College students also make use of the facility. We charge a nominal amount for taking the print. We are encouraged by the visit of staff from organisations such as ISRO, VSSC and Keltron,” Vinod adds.

Once the Fab Academy course winds up, visitors will have better access to the facilities at Fab Lab. They will be given individual training on different machines, if needed. In the meantime, the concept will be taken to more institutions, especially colleges and schools with the opening of mini Fab Labs.

So, if you have an idea now you know where to go….

[Fab Lab is inside the Indian Institute of Technology and Management- Kerala (IIITM-K) in Technopark. It is open for groups and individuals on Saturdays. Contact: 0471 2700270]

The beginning

In 1998, Neil Gershenfeld started a class at MIT called ‘How to make (almost) anything’ that eventually led to the creation of Fab Lab. Fab Academy is a digital fabrication programme designed by him for the Fab Labs. Now there 604 Fab Labs across the globe. India has 14 Fab Labs of which two are in Kerala.

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