New and Aspiring Labs: Basic Requirement

Basic Requirements for Fab Academy Participation

Here are the basic requirements and expectations for any lab that wishes to participate in the the Fab Academy course.

Your lab MUST be equipped with the ALL necessary digital fabrication machines, electronics components and other supplies to be able to participate in the Academy. Labs that are not properly equipped are not eligible to participate in the Academy, as the students will not be able to complete the course.

As this is a bleeding edge program, hardware and electronics specification is continually being updated. For the most up-to-date list of recommended machines and supplies, see: the Fab Lab Inventory

Necessary Machine Types

  • A computer-controlled laser cutter, for press-fit assembly of 3D structures from 2D parts.

  • A large (4'x8') numerically-controlled milling machine, for making furniture (and larger) sized parts.

  • A vinyl cutter, to produce printing masks, flexible circuits, and antennas.

  • A desktop sized precision (micron resolution) milling machine to make three-dimensional molds and surface-mount circuit boards.

  • Specific machine models (thoroughly tested and highly recommended but not required) are listed in the Fab Lab Inventory

Necessary Supplies

  • Programming tools for low-cost high-speed embedded processors

  • Course-required surface mount electronics components

  • FR1 stock for machining circuit boards

  • Molding and casting supplies

  • Composites supplies

  • Cardboard, sheet plywood and other consumable stock materials

Some of the hard to find materials are going to be made available in kit form (for a fee) during the course. Suggested lead time is 2 weeks in most places (allow for longer in remote locations) and reminders of what is needed within this 2 week window will be made during weekly prep meetings.

Do I need these specific machines and electronic components?

Yes - you do.

In order to fully participate in the class you will need the electronics components and other supplies. Do not skimp on the electronics, about half the course utilizes these components.

In some rare cases, non-Fab Lab Inventory machines may be substituted, but this often causes serious problems for the students as the Academy Gurus are unable to support the unfamiliar machines remotely when things go wrong.

We recommend the machines in the inventory for a reason, we have found them to be reliable, affordable and able to perform the necessary course tasks. Other machine will be considered on a case-by-case basis if your lab applies to be a Fab Academy site (Node) .

It also violates the core Fab principle that "Fab labs share core capabilities, so that people and projects can be shared across them." - Neil Gershenfeld, Fab Lab FAQ

Local Class Working Groups

What is the maximum / minimum number of students in a local Fab Academy class?

Beyond a Local Instructor, a workgroup of students is required in order to create the necessary collaboration environment for a successful Fab Academy class.

We have found that it is (nearly) impossible for a student to complete the course on their own and workgroup ensures that one student’s strong suit may help make up for another student’s weak spots and vice versa.

Here are the general guidelines for Class Working Groups:

  • CRITICAL MASS NECESSARY: They are made up of a Local Instructor and at least 3 students or 3+ students and a Remote Guru.

  • PREVENTING INSTRUCTOR OVERLOAD: Groups larger than approximately 10 students per Local Instructor or Guru are not recommended, simply because there are not enough hours in the weekly cycle for each of those students to receive appropriate guidance from a single individual.

  • MACHINE LOGISTICS: In the case of multiple Local Instructors / Gurus in one lab, another 5 students can be enrolled for a recommended maximum of 15 students, as the problem now becomes a logistical one of students vs machines and machine time available (assuming standard inventory quantities).

  • REMOTE LOCATION CONSOLIDATION: Likewise, it is not recommended that Guru support more than 10 remote students and every attempt should be made to group remote students in such a way that Gurus do not have students in more than 2 remote locations.

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