Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Innovation Invasion: MIT’s ‘Fab Lab’ Arrives, Breakthroughs to Follow

The arrival of a graffiti-tagged truck has led to the creation of a wireless antennae for network access in Afghanistan, analytical instrumentation for healthcare and agriculture in India, solar-powered turbines for energy in Norway, and locally responsive low-cost housing in Barcelona.

Organizers from Capitol Broadcasting Company, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and Piedmont Conservation Council are thrilled to see what the arrival of the MIT ‘Mobile Fab Lab’ will lead to when it rolls into Durham’s American Tobacco on March 13. The lab will depart the Bull City on March 26.

The Fab Lab will give the community the ability to conceptualize, design, develop, fabricate and test almost anything they can create. From new games to robots to whatever the users can imagine, the Fab lab puts priceless equipment, typically out of reach for most, into the hands of anyone, with the goal of creating innovative ideas, products and services to enrich our community and world.

“When it comes to innovation and entrepreneurialism, Durham is a national leader,” said Mayor Bill Bell. “So it's only fitting that Fab Lab sets up shop here, to show young and old how to turn their biggest ideas and wildest dreams into reality. As a retired IBM electrical engineer, I have a few notions that I may try out myself."

Added Michael Goodmon, vice president of real estate, Capitol Broadcasting Company, “The mobile Fab Lab arriving in Durham is going to be a game changer for so many innovators in our community. They’ve been tinkering with incredible ideas but now have access to the tools that can make them a reality. I’ve got a few ideas of my own that I can’t wait to work out while watching schoolkids, inventors, designers and developers create!”

The Fab Lab includes a computer-controlled laser to cut out parts to assemble 2D and 3D structures, a sign cutter that plots in copper to make antennae and flexible circuits, a high-resolution table-top milling machine to make molds and circuit boards, a larger milling machine to make furniture- and house-sized parts, and electronic components and programming tools for working with low-cost high-speed microcontrollers.

Tushar Mahale, a local entrepreneur and Board Member of Piedmont Conservation Council, said, "Durham has such a rich community of organizations, non-profits, and businesses trying to make life better for all types of people - we want this community to understand what is possible with a Fab Lab and find ways to use it to benefit their target groups or society at large."

MIT has developed easy to use software, materials, and workflows to bring these tools together for use in the field, and people off the street can come in and see how prototyping/fabrication technologies work. They can take a test run, or sign up for lab times to take their concept through from idea to design to prototype.

The Fab Lab will be located at American Tobacco in the ‘Down Under’ at American Tobacco (adjacent to Saladelia restaurant) and will be open to the public from 11am-8pm (Tuesdays & Thursdays) and on Saturday the 19th 10am-6pm. The lab will be open to community groups, schools and other organizations Monday through Friday March 14-March 26. Time slot reservations should be made in advance by interested organizations by emailing stephanie.grant@fablabscarolinas.org and visiting fablabscarolinas.org.


  1. There's even a website:


  2. Site renamed http://www.fablabcarolinas.org