On request of the (starting) French FabLab community we have tentatively formulated the conditions for being able to use the label "Fab Lab" -- this is a Draft / RFC based on Communication from Sherry Lassiter, 15 April 2011.
To apply the conditions set out below (and translated into FR, DE, JP), please also refer to the Fab_Lab_conformity_rating which explains how a lab can partially fulfill those criteria and still is be able to call itself a Fab Lab.
Also note, that the label is "Fab Lab" (or Fablab or FabLab) and that you are not entitled to use anything like "MIT Fab Lab" etc. However, you can always say that your Fab Lab is modeled after the MIT concept or anything along these lines.
These key characteristics create an enabling environment that we call a fab lab. Provided that a lab effort is aligned with the below, they can and should use the logo for fund raising, promoting and advertising the fab lab and its activities.
- First and foremost, public access to the fab lab is essential. A fab lab is about democratizing access to the tools for personal expression and invention. So a fab lab must be open to the public for free or in-kind service/barter at least part of the time each week.
- Fab Labs support and subscribe to the fab lab charter: http://fab.cba.mit.edu/about/charter/ This charter should be published somewhere on the website and also in the fab lab.
- Fab Labs must share a common set of tools and processes. The critical machines and materials are in this list: http://fab.cba.mit.edu/about/fab/inv.html and there's a list of open source software and freeware that we use online as well (embedded in fab academy modules here: http://academy.cba.mit.edu/classes/). The idea is that all the labs can share knowledge, designs, and collaborate across international borders.
- You have to participate in the larger, global fab lab network, that is, you can't isolate yourself. This is about being part of a global, knowlege-sharing community through the videoconference, attending the annual fab lab meeting, and otherwise collaborating and partnering with other labs in the network on workshops, challenges or projects. Participating in Fab Academy is yet another way to connect with the global network community.
- If I make something here in Boston and send you the files and documentation, you should be able to reproduce it there, fairly painlessly. If I walk into your lab anywhere in the world, I should be able to do the same things that I can do in Ghana, South Aftrica, Amsterdam or Boston fab labs. But essentially it's the processes and the codes and the capabilities that are important.
- A prototyping facility is not the equivalent of a fab lab. A 3D printer is not a fab lab.
- The brands are unimportant but the transferability of files and processes are. Generally: laser cutter for 2D/3D design and fabrication, a high precision milling machine for making circuits and molds for casting, a vinyl cutter for making flexible circuits and crafts, a fairly sophisticated electronics workbench for prototyping circuits and programming microcontrollers, and a large wood routing machine for furniture, housing, structures, and other applications like the FabFi. We just added a fairly cheap but robust and fair resolution Chinese 3D printer to the list. Lots of labs want and need 3D printing, but we've been extremely unhappy with 3D printers.
- The electronics can cover Arduino kits, Scratch kits, Pico Crickets, and Mindstorms -- all for people learning electronics or who want to use them as platforms for development. But equally, if not more important, the fab lab includes high speed, low cost microcontrollers (Atmel AVRs) and surface mount components that allow you to develop almost anything from the bottom up, and allow you to do your own development, far beyond what the kits provide. This includes onsite in circuit programming.