Building a mobile fab lab

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Possible configurations:

  1. Mobile classroom – Contains equipment, workstations and space to work.
  2. Equipment transport – No space to work, Equipment and workstations are on wheels and must be moved into a building in order to use.
  3. Hybrid – Contains space to work, but the equipment and workstations are on wheels so that they can be moved into a building if desired.


  1. Motorized (e.g. ice cream truck, mobile home)
  2. Trailer – need tow vehicle (e.g. NASCAR trailer, semi tractor-trailor, etc.)
  3. Other – cargo container, boat

Electrical power options:

  1. Plug in at host location (120v single phase, 240v 3-phase, etc)
  2. Generator
  3. Solar panels and batteries


  1. Ethernet – Internet access, file sharing, video conferencing
    1. Hard-wired
    2. Wireless
    3. Satellite
  2. Telephone
    1. Hard-wired
    2. Wireless
    3. Satellite
    4. Internet (VOIP)

Other requirements:

  1. Ventilation for laser
    1. Vent outside (possible obnoxious smells, loose heating / cooling)
    2. HEPA filter (caution filters are expensive)
    3. Filter and vent outside (loose heating / cooling)
  2. Heating and cooling
  3. Lighting – task, general inside and outside
  4. Dust collector for Shopbot
  5. Security – easy to lock securely to prevent un-authorized use and/or theft of equipment, computers, and supplies.
  6. Mobility – easy to transport, easy to secure equipment, computers, and supplies.
  7. Fire extinguishers and smoke alarms

Ongoing costs:

  1. Insurance – damage, theft, and liability
  2. License plates
  3. EPA testing
  4. Weigh stations
  5. Gas for generator
  6. Cost of transportation
  7. Storage cost when not used
  8. Maintenance

Benefits of mobility:

  1. Can bring to people in their own environment
  2. Effect more people
  3. Connect to isolated people / areas
  4. Marketing / Outreach
  5. Advertising (giant moving billboard)
  6. Fairs and special events
  7. Useful for scouting out and testing possible markets / locations for permanent lab.
  8. Useful for determining needs and shaping objectives for permanent lab.

Questions to be asked:

  1. When will it be used?
  2. How often will it need to be transported?
  3. Will drivers need special training/certification and/or insurance to drive?
  4. How long will it stay at each location?
  5. Will internet, water, etc be available?
  6. Will electrical power be available (120v, 240v, single phase, three phase, sufficient amperage)


  1. For the lab to be useful trained staff will be needed at each location or will have to travel with the lab.
  2. If the lab will be time-shared or passed off between locations, it will be hard to deal with inventory.
  3. Someone has to schedule lab transportation, usage, equipment maintenance, licensing, ordering, etc.

Other suggestions:

  1. 4’ x 4’ Shopbot Buddy instead of standard 4’ x 8’ Shopbot – lighter, more rigid, and uses less space
  2. All-in-one printer
  3. Laptop computers instead of desktops
  4. Extra laptops
  5. Roll out awning (like on campers) – provide protection from sun and weather and additional workspace.
  6. Screen door and screened enclosure for back gate to keep bugs out.
  7. Extra door for good flow and egress
  8. Sound insulation
  9. Power monitor / power filter
  10. Vacuum to aid in clean-up
  11. First aid kit
  12. Security alarm system
  13. Plenty of storage (lockable?)
  14. Keep trailer weight to a minimum
    1. Only carry materials needed
    2. Consider using pre-packaged instead of a complete inventory
    3. Don’t exceed weight limits
  15. Built-in leveling / stabilization jacks
  16. Paint with automotive paints and clear coat to protect.
  17. Bathroom?
  18. Pick equipment and wire for single phase low voltage only?
  19. Wire so that lab can run on single phase low voltage only if necessary.