Fablab: back to the beginning

The above picture shows the first ever prototype made at our Fablab by Fokke de Jong in October 2007, depicted in the memorable 'Fab moment' titled 'How to make a box of acrylic' (pdf).

The very first Fablab in The Netherlands was shown during the 'El Hema' exhibition at Mediamatic, in the (now demolished) 'Post-CS' building. It consisted of a small corridor with a digital lasercutter. About the same time we were creating our Fablab on the third floor of Pakhuis de Zwijger. But for the real beginning we have to go back in time a little further.

In 2004, everyone at Waag Society still worked in the historical Waag building. On the first floor, developers and project managers occupied one space, that was also used to make prototypes for installations in museums, archives and libraries. The cutting, drilling and soldering did of course not contribute to optimal working conditions. As we lacked a real workspace, Bas van Abel and myself arranged two tables where we at least could work on electronics and small objects.

Our larger objects were made at professional workspaces, but there was a strong desire to have our own place to fabricate prototypes. Eventually this led to our Fablab with its open hardware for digital fabrication, public access, the sharing of designs and work processes (open design) and hundreds of fine make projects. After three years, the Fablab moved to the Waag, where it since has conquered almost every space at the upper floors (with the exception of the Theatrum Anatomicum).

With the extension to the fields of biotechnology and textiles, the Fablab transformed to new working areas. An important next aspect in making could become sustainability and a critical attitude towards what we make (and why). Pieter van Boheemen already foresaw a place where we ban all plastics and will research new materials that can replace them. A green lab, where making supports a sustainable future and helps to control climate change. In which there thus will no longer be a place for acrylic.

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The first Fablabs in The Netherlands emerged in 2007, but we were already looking for a workplace to create prototypes long before.

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