Just about anything is possible and anyone can join in – that’s the motto of the FabLab or “fabrication laboratory”, the project to which Vincent Dinh, Business Developer in the Transmission & Engine Sensors Segment of the Powertrain division´s Sensors & Actuators business unit in Toulouse (France) devotes a large part of his leisure time.
The idea first saw the light of day in 2002 at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA and is now being lived out close to Toulouse in southern France. Like many brilliant ideas, it’s also simple: an open workshop equipped with (in many cases digital) machinery and tools is available free of charge to anyone who has always wanted to turn an idea into reality but has never had the opportunity or possibility to do so. FabLab was set up in December 2016 as a project of the non-profit organization APSAR (Animation Prévention Sociale AmourouxRoseraie) which works to promote training, grass-roots participation and diversity in a residential district to the north-east of Toulouse.
This small high-tech workshop provides a space where old and young, expert and newcomer can bring creativity and technology together. As the Chair of APSAR I put my heart and soul into developing FabLab. What fascinates me is the idea of offering a project for all ages and levels of experience. Anyone who wants to take part is invited to experiment, create and make things happen. Nobody needs to be an expert to be creative or produce something. It’s a new way of getting closer to scientific subjects.
FabLab is currently operating with 15 volunteers, including architects, engineers, technicians, craftsmen, musicians, pensioners and students. It relies heavily on donations and the commitment of its volunteers that keep it going. At present, FabLab is still housed in a rented ten square meter room, which is not big enough for what my team and I have in mind. The FabLab we ultimately want to see will have five main pillars. Firstly, digital and electronic activities such as producing objects with the 3D-printer, programming or robotics; secondly, textile work; thirdly, woodworking, metalworking, construction and repair work; fourthly, music and video production; and finally, community gardening. That’s why we’re planning on relocating to a new 40 square meter home with fixed opening times on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Anyone can join in: school students wanting to follow their interests outside the curriculum, inventors who don’t have the space for their big ideas at home, and people wanting to learn as well as those keen to pass on their skills. What is key is the collaboration and interplay between the people involved and the potential that this generates. If it eventually gives rise to a startup or two, that would be very welcome but it’s not the actual goal.
At the moment I dedicate between one and four hours per week to FabLab, mainly in the evenings and at weekends. I am glad that I have the opportunity to combine my exciting job at Continental with this great project. My family and friends support me a lot. They also think it’s a good thing. My wife is also involved in social initiatives and we want our children to use FabLab too.
Where my motivation comes from? It might sound mundane, but we’re building the world of tomorrow and I would like to play my part. I do what I can and I really enjoy it.
This article was written by our employee.