3D Printing

What is FabLab? The Definition Lies Within this 3D VoicePrint Sculpture

Nestled away in small-scale workshops across the world, from London to Milan to Tanzania, are digital fabrication centers called FabLabs, which serve their respective communities with access to emerging technologies and educational tools centered around them. One artist from the Toulouse, France-based FabLab is attempting to offer us a definition for these workshops in the form of a 3D VoicePrint sculpture.


The artist, Gilles Azzaro, was actually a founding member of the Toulouse FabLab, the first lab of its kind in France. “The most important was to give a meaning to the work – the FabLab is a place I know like the back of my hand, it is part of me,” said Azzaro. Azzaro is internationally recognized already for a similarly styled project, in which he created a 3D printed sculpture called “Next Industrial Revolution”, a 3D VoicePrint of US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address from 2013.

Azzaro with his piece, “What is FabLab?”

The artwork, named “What is FabLab?”, comes coupled with the new expansion to the facility’s ARTILECT LAB, a new lab component created to help support the emergence of professional and innovative technological projects. To commemorate the new workshop expansion, an area named “Salle des Machines”, the ARTILECT LAB asked Azzaro to conjure up a piece of work to unveil to the public. Azzaro ultimately decided that the best way to represent the innovation and activity behind FabLab was to define it, and so, set out to get that definition from Neil Gershenfeld, a widely influential professor from MIT and the mind behind FabLabs.


Azzaro had contacted Gershenfeld with the idea of using the definition of FabLabs as the basis of a 3D printed sculpture, Gershenfeld then responded enthusiastically with a 23-second recording of his personal definition:

FabLabs are a global network of local labs that are democratizing access to digital fabrications allowing anyone to make almost anything. With the technical goal of FabLabs making FabLabs, together they are asking and answering how we will live, learn, work and play in a world where data can become things and things can become data.


Azzaro took this audio recording and modeled the sound waves into a 1.8-meter, 3D printed sculpture, which took two printers and over 200 hours to complete. Azzaro was not alone in his artistic endeavor. In fact, a number of volunteers from the ARTILECT LAB came together to assist with the art installation. The sculpture is currently being exhibited within the Salles des Machines section of the ARTILECT LAB, and a Kickstarter will soon be launched to help create a second replica sculpture that will be showcased in other FabLabs around the world. The original piece can be viewed during the Toulouse FabLab Festival, which takes place from May 5-8.