Fab Lab X Makerspace: do you know the difference between them?

A collaborative and innovative prototyping and digital manufacturing laboratory for experimenting and developing new ideas. Would you call this place a makerspace or a Fab Lab?

With the growth of maker education and the importance of active methodologies for the learning process, many educational managers and teachers decide to consider creating such kind of spaces in schools. Fablabs and makerspaces are places where students can learn more about the hacker culture, building and deconstructing objects and developing a variety of projects.

Just as important as making a such a lab in school is understanding its main features and what are the differences between Makerspaces and Fab Labs, concepts that are mistaken as synonymous by people. We will help you in this mission. Find out what a makerspace and what a Fab Lab is!

Maker Movement, the beginning of the hands-on culture

Learn by doing. This is one of the fundamentals of the Maker Movement, that has been transforming economy, business and education in the past decade.

The idea is that making should guide thinking, not the other way around, encouraging people to take action before making great and complex plans. This is the prototyping concept, which has been very important for innovation processes in companies and schools.

Based in the do-it-yourself culture, the movement believes that everyone has the ability to create objects and other projects with their own hands, with the help of some tools. With the popularization of the Maker Movement, creation and co-creation laboratories were spreading around the world, creating Makerspaces and Fab Labs.

Makerspace X Fab Lab, understand the differences between them

With workshop features, Makerspaces and Fab Labs combine hand-made tools – such as locksmithing, sewing or joinery machinery – with digital manufacturing, such as laser cutters, routers and the famous 3D printers. “We are a spontaneously growing movement that wants to democratize access to new manufacturing technologies, encourage open knowledge, entrepreneurship and a hands-on spirit” , says the Fab Lab Brazil Network.

Although they have the same goals, Makerspaces have a free format and may or may not be connected to an educational/research institution or company, and do not need to have a certain number or variety of equipments.

The Fab Lab format was conceived at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), when Professor Neil Gershenfeld created the course “How to do (almost) anything”. The idea was quickly carried forward by Neil’s students and turned into a specific creative lab model. Therefore, Fab Labs must follow some rules, defined by the global organization Fab Foundation:

  1. Every Fab Lab must have at least five types of machine: 3D printers, laser cutter, vinyl cutter, small precision CNC (computerized numerical command) and large precision CNC.
  2. Every Fab Lab should be open for at least one day to the society in general. The date is usually called Open Day.
  3. On Open Days, the laboratory should also provide monitors to guide people interested in using the machines and technologies, encouraging the growth of the maker community.

Even though both have community building and networking as important values, Fab Labs are institutionally connected to the worldwide network of laboratories and to inventors, technologists, educators, and researchers who strengthen knowledge sharing in a more systematic way.

But the two concepts converge in another respect: technology must be only a means, not an end in itself. To understand what really makes a difference in an education-focused lab, check out this post we prepared on the subject. Take the opportunity to read the interview with Edgar Andrade from Fab Lab Recife, one of the most important in the Brasil, who explains the mindset behind the machines and tools of a Makerspace or Fab Lab.

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