FOR the first time, makers from a global maker space network are meeting in a Chinese city for an annual gathering dedicated to promoting technologies for innovation in an age when personalized production is the trend.
FAB12, the 12th annual meeting of the global Fab Lab community, kicked off its 10day event in Shenzhen yesterday. A slew of activities, including workshop creations, project road shows and symposiums, will be held in the upcoming days with the participation of about 2,000 members from Fab Lab networks, including scientists and technicians from 55 countries.
According to the theme, “Fabricating the Future,” this year’s meeting not only shares the technologies and tools necessary for innovation, but also outlines a new direction for spreading the impact of innovation to help build a better society: humanitarian aid for refugees.
This week, celebrated scientists and entrepreneurs will share their ideas during 22 forums covering topics ranging from gene modification, smart hardware, and unmanned vehicles, to maker space operation and more. Some of the speakers include Fab Lab’s founder Neil Gershenfeld, global supply chain leader PCH International’s cofounder and CEO Liam Casey, British engineer and the inventor of the first opensource selfreplicating 3D printer Adrian Bowyer, planetary physicist and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center retiree Dr. Philip Metzger, the youngest robotmaker Saarang Sumesh, and the founder of the new Rossums studio Jonathan M. Ledgard.
Makers will visit the Huaqiangbei commercial area, the city’s maker spaces, maker accelerators, and manufacturing and design enterprises. In addition, several openday events will be held, so the public can have closer contact with the latest innovations.
Product release Friday will see a number of new products from makers, such as the braincontrolled automobile, interactive games, a light box with emotion sensors, a highprecision desktop robot, a new 3D printing machine, and a watersaving irrigation system.
Gershenfeld, who is also director of the Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), sees the new role for Shenzhen shifting from a traditional manufacturing leader to an innovation center through the collaborations of global makers.
“There is a very important and central role for Shenzhen — helping the world go from consumers to creators,” he said.
He added that what is needed to realize the transition is a whole new kind of technology for personal production on a global scale, which is different from what people already have for mass production.
“Separate maker spaces and hacker spaces are isolated, what’s special about the Fab Lab here is the network, so each Fab Lab is more valuable when a lab connects a network … this meeting is the network meeting: it shares and celebrates the strength of Shenzhen,” he said.
Shirley Feng, secretary general of the Shenzhen Industrial Design Profession Association, said it’s of great significance that Shenzhen is hosting FAB12, because it will provide a platform to match Shenzhen’s resources with global maker spaces and networks, and to form connections that support ordinary people in turning their ideas into reality.
Feng said her association is building Fab Lab networks in a few residential communities in Futian and Longgang districts and will expand the program throughout the city in the future.