We don’t all need to BE fabbers, but we all NEED fabbers!



Max Lobovsky, the founder of Formlabs and creator of the Form 1  3d printer,  summed up the future of digital fabrication pretty well for me… “People don’t need the technology, they need the parts.”

We all know that digital tools—CNC machines, 3d printers, laser cutters, etc.—are amazing machines. We need to remember though that they are just that, tools like hammers and saws. It’s the output of these tools that is the powerful story to tell, as do the new things they can make and new business models for manufacturing using them. For sure the “Star Trek Replicator” will change everything when it comes along, but until then we’ll still need ways to fabricate all the things we need. Of course there’s a place for things like artistic carvings and 3-d printed items,  but what I’m talking about here are the things that we all need; chairs, tables, cabinets, houses, and all those kinds of things. Things that Ted Hall refers to as the “stuff of everyday life.”

Does this mean that everyone will have to have a full fabrication shop in their home to make everything they could possibly need? I don’t think so, and here’s why I think it might not make sense for everyone to become a fabber:

  1. There’s a learning curve and skill set involved in using all these tools efficiently. They are certainly getting easier to use, but there’s no substitute for using a tool day in and day out. You can buy a bread machine, but that doesn’t instantly make you a baker.
  2. Small-scale home fabrication can be pretty inefficient, both in materials and time. Need a small shelf made? Odds are that you won’t have just the right materials you need to make it on-hand. And if you do happen to have exactly what you need all the time, you probably have a storage problem! Most likely you’ll end up using a material that might not be appropriate for your use but might just be what you have on hand.
  3. It can be a lot of work. A sheet of plywood or plastic can be heavy, and fabricating the parts is usually just the start. It’s a rare project that doesn’t require finishing steps like sanding and painting, which can be messy in a home. It’s fun on occasion, but maybe not when you need to make EVERYTHING!


There will always be people that want to own the tools themselves, and at ShopBot we’re glad of that, but we’re also excited about the rise of local manufacturing businesses that leverage these new digital tools and the designers skilled in creating for them. That’s our motivation behind starting 100kGarages and projects like the MakeLocal project in New York and the Open Source Living Room in Detroit. We wanted to show folks that might not be “makers”—our moms and dads maybe—that digital tools and digital design can enable a resurgence of local manufacturing and the start of a new manufacturing revolution

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