US Government To Operate Fab Labs?

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
111th CONGRESS
2d Session
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?
 
Via Library of Congress and Govtrack (Hat tip to Bryan)
Image Credit: CabFabLab
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One Response

  1. I think the idea is scary.

    The maker / hacker / DIY fab movement is well underway right now without too much government input. I do believe that the government can do many nice things, but i am wary of them coming in at this point… Especially setting up a national agency.

    Here is the thing. I see a type of value, a type of community currency, a type of mind-set and outlook, a philosophy if you will, and all of this is connected to the maker movement. If we switch over and start trends which integrate this movement with the global economy at large i just don't see it leading to anything other then… heartless capitalism.

    The movement is still so young and fresh, and obviously people are seeing the potential in this (hence the bill). But it's too young, and we need to let the people play it out and see where it goes, and when the DIY labs and fab industries that pop up from individuals own efforts start asking for money and help then we should look to get the government involved. At this point, the whole movement risks being turned into something it might not actually be. Basically, i think this proposal will risk hi-jacking this precious energy which we have cultivated in the DIY movement and selling it on the market. It's not infinite, and can we really trust the federal government to "present" and create and "identity" for all fab labs?

    She is too young, say no… for now…

    However, i will say this… Send the proposal, talk about it, because in a few years time we will be ready for the government integration… I think they will be banging at the door asking to be let in. Once they come in though, then the shift is complete and the next stage begins, and when that happens you cannot go back.

    Fab labs are awesome though.. Who needs giant wasteful factories which only make the supply line crappy. Local fab labs = easy recycling and better resource management.

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