What? We think of Fab Labs as independent operations supplying a focus for local fabrication activities, channeling ideas, tools, techniques, parts and space together where Great Things Evolve. Typically they spring up out of grassroots ideas from strong proponents who just make it happen, sometimes with local academic or corporate sponsorship. But now we read this:
H.R.6003 — National Fab Lab Network Act of 2010 (Introduced in House – IH)
HR 6003 IH
H. R. 6003
To provide for the establishment of the National Fab Lab Network to build out a network of community based, networked Fabrication Laboratories across the United States to foster a new generation with scientific and engineering skills and to provide a workforce capable of producing world class individualized and traditional manufactured goods.
Wow! They say:
A new kind of national infrastructure will be required in order to adequately take advantage of leading edge digital fabrication technologies to secure the United States’ leading position in scientific fields and to promote a robust manufacturing base.
They are proposing (as this Act has not yet passed) to establish a non-profit entity to manage a national network of fabrication laboratories, coordinating activities between them. The new “NFLN” would be the first point of contact for anyone wishing to create a new Fab Lab; set standards for Fab Labs and judge whether requestors are able to meet them; hook up sponsors and fabricators to make it happen; promote the idea of fabrication via labs to the public.
They want to establish “at least one Fab Lab per every 700,000 individuals in the United States in the first ten years of its operation”. Um, our simplistic arithmetic shows this would be 438 Fab Labs, based on 307,006,550 residents (from July 2009) divided by 700,000. Many cities would have several Fab Labs, if this scheme works. Oh, and the population is likely to grow a tad by ten year’s time.
But how is it funded? The bill says: “The NFLN may accept donations from private individuals, corporations, government agencies, or other organizations.” In other words, it’s really intended to organize the ongoing Fab Lab phenomenon. What do you think of this proposal?