When I was a little boy, there was a time when I was hooked on sci-fi films. I wondered about how amazing life would be if all the magic depicted on the screen would happen in real life, how different would everything be if all the ideas and thoughts you have in your mind could transform into real, useful products you can touch and feel. Time passed and I kept thinking that all these belong – along with Harry Potter – to the realm of the impossible, far away from the mundane and ordinary world we live in.
When I first heard about fab labs and makerspaces, I was not sure what this brand-new concept actually was and how it functioned. After watching a few documentaries and reading some papers explaining the origins and the purpose of this concept, I started believing that magic is something related to our world after all.
It all began when Make: magazine launched its first issue back in 2005. It served as a bible for all kinds of makers working on various innovative projects. The magazine itself developed even further by organizing maker fairs, where creative people would gather to work together on their projects and exchange knowledge and ideas. It was something like a training field consisting only of makers, who were connected with each other through the sheer joy of working on something they really love.
Another important pillar of the foundation of makerspaces are the fab labs of one of the most renowned universities in the world: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Fab labs are open spaces with digital equipment used for the design and creation of products. Spread all over the world, Berlin could not be excluded. The German capital has HappyLab that opened its store about two months ago, after making its successful start in Austria. Its founders, Roland Stelzer and Karif Jafarmadar, created a large space in Wedding, where you will find a large amount of rapid prototype machines at your disposal ready to make real-life objects out of an initial digital version.
What’s more, you have the opportunity to use an array of different tools, such as cutting plotters, laser plotters, 3D printers, CNC milling machines, oscilloscopes and many more. As you can imagine, the tools vary from hammers to really complex and challenging equipment, such as the CNC milling machines. In the case of the latter, there are workshops offered by HappyLab that will walk you through all of what you need to know about the use of these tools in detail.
The potential of makerspaces like HappyLab, is astonishing. 16-year-old Florian Kristof has managed to breathe life into several of his creative ideas, which have culminated in the construction of his first fully functional robot called RobBox 3.0. Anja Schober has managed to turn acrylic glass into high-quality design jewelry. The start-up Patchbox has created a revolutionary cabling system. The diversity of the projects is more than evident and the list of successful products is endless.
The highlight of the concept of makerspaces that has gained in popularity over the last few years is that it turns ‘do-it-yourself’ into ‘do-it-with-others’, creating a diverse community of people from all walks of life ready to pour their hearts out into making their mind-boggling ideas into an even more thrilling reality.
Text: Nikos Venierakis