Let’s hope Fab won’t be a fad

Not Fab from fabulous, but rather Fab from making and using fabbers, machines that can make almost anything, by printing three dimensional objects.

From commercial to the more open-source hardware and software solutions at Fab@home, these machines will enable people to download and print objects, experimenting with shared projects and try out new materials. Fabber owners improve these models and share physical objects with other fabbers, with the same enthusiasm as the pioneers of open source movement.


The wave of innovation brought by Web 2.0 technologies, with a sustainable co-creation by thousands of users, is now expanding to the physical world. The signs are there: from hacker (in the creative sense) communities like Make, Instructables or the more neo-Craftsy website, people are getting more comfortable with the idea of building something with their own hands. It’s about feeling empowered, the hands-on experience of building something, appealing not only to our darwinian survival skills but also have a bit of science fiction premonition (remember Luke Skywalker building C3PO as a young kid?). Yes, because even young kids are starting to love the tinkering, as shown on the TED Talk below, by Gever Tulley:

If all this seems futuristic to you, just try to imagine how IKEA will look in a decade: instead of boxed items, dozens of 3d printers are available at the cashier. You just take the blueprints and super fast hardware will print that out. Or even better: for smaller items, you just download the schematic at IKEA Fab Store and print them at home.

Yes, it seems far fetched. But so did Augmented Reality a decade ago. I just hope the media won’t hype Fab as much as they did with AR. Universal manufacturing is something that could change society in unexpected ways, the same way Internet did, by redefining industries and democratizing innovation. It comes nonetheless with a new set of dilemmas, such as the degree of experimentation or control of outputs.

As for companies, they’d better start thinking how their old models of patents stand up to this new paradigm, with a product’s life cycle being dramatically redefined. And, who knows, maybe even involve the consumers in true User Generated Products.

Article cross-posted at TheTrendWatch

I’m rather curious to find out more this stuff at the workshop by Audiencia Zero on 3D printing with Zach Hoeken , but probably won’t have a chance, unless they open a special vacancy on the already full registration list (hint, hint).