Did you know that there are over 550 Fab Labs in 55 countries? The knowledge sharing network of educators, technologists, Makers, tinkerers, hackers and researchers prides itself on having the ability to provide the same making experience to people in all parts of the world. From August 3rd-9th, Boston — the city where the first Fab Lab was created over 10 years ago — hosted Fab11, celebrating the Fab Lab community with a series of Making events and showcasing its mission to empower through technology, design and craft.
One of the most important things that Fab Foundation – Fab Labs provides for the community they are in is a uniform technical prototyping platform for entrepreneurs. Partnering with Waltham-based Dassault Systemes’ SOLIDWORKS, the multi-billion dollar 3D CAD design software company, Fab Labs are continuing to reach out to Makers and inventors to help them breathe life into their creations. Marie Planchard, Director of Education Portfolio, SOLIDWORKS at Dassault Systemes, spent last week at Fab 11, and was kind enough to speak with me on the phone about her experiences.
Marie told me that she learned so much about new types of digital fabrication, including the making of clothes, and that you can grow almost anything through biosynthetic fabrication. She also learned about bioprinting —growing earlobes, organs, the manipulation of DNA, DNA printing and so on. “Another side of Fab 11 brought together a group of engineers and scientists that contribute to movie making, screenwriting, digital photography and other special effects. It was very insightful and mind-blowing,” Marie said.
At Fab 11, they demonstrated how the physical geometry of President Obama was captured by 3D scanning, fixed by 3D software, and 3D printed into reality. They also paid tribute to Mel King, who had started Fab Labs in Boston 10 years ago. During one event, the mayor of Boston came in and congratulated Mel King for his contributions to society.
One SOLIDWORKS project which Marie mentioned, and which I thought was quite interesting, was that they are working with the Rwandan government to start a Fab Lab in Rwanda. SOLIDWORKS will be providing licenses for their software for 1 year at no cost. There is a $200 application fee, but 80 percent of it goes to the Rwanda High School Girls Scholarship Program, which funds initiatives for female students to learn trades and locally applicable skills at the ETO Gitarama/Nyanza Technical School. The idea is for more Rwandan girls to finish school with an immediately usable skill or trade. Marie said, “we hope that this will lead to more women going to work and lead to significant improvements in their lives.”
I also learned, while speaking with Marie, that Fab Foundation is partnering with SOLIDWORKS to further spur innovation among the global Maker and inventor community.
SOLIDWORKS for Entrepreneurs
Years ago, SOLIDWORKS created a sponsorship program, after receiving a lot of feedback and requests from customers. Marie said that “presently, there are 3 million students using SOLIDWORKS.” She indicated that there is a huge push for entrepreneurship, and SOLIDWORKS felt compelled to respond to this huge influx of requests.
As of August 5th, 2015, SOLIDWORKS for Entrepreneurs has been rolled out in the US, Canada, Europe and parts of Asia. According to a recent press release, SOLIDWORKS For Entrepreneurs is “powered by Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform, and the SOLIDWORKS applications deliver an intuitive experience in product design, simulation, publishing, data management, and environmental impact assessment that accelerate design and manufacturing processes, while saving production time and costs.”
In order to qualify for the program, you have to be offering a product that can be manufactured. There are so many students in their senior year who enter competitions to win incubator funding from their universities. This gives students an extra leg up when they are trying to get their feet off the ground.
For more information on the SOLIDWORKS for Entrepreneurs program, or to apply, click here. And, for more about FAB 11, visit the FAB 11 site, where you’ll find all sorts of videos from the event, including complete footage of talks hosted at FAB 11. A small taste is embedded below, covering a talk specifically on robotics.