The development of the Open Lab Starter Kit is part of the Fab City project at the New Production Institute at Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg.


Open Lab Starter Kit: Empowering Makers Anywhere[edit | edit source]

The Open Lab Starter Kitequips makerspaces with affordable and reproducible Open Source Machine Tools, tackling challenges like high initial investments, vendor lock-ins, and maintenance issues. It ensures accessibility even in regions with limited availability of machines or spare parts.

The Open Source Machine Tools Project Collection

The Open Source Machine Tools Project Collection was started as part of the Tolocar project, and serves as a comprehensive resource for listing and referencing existing open-source machine tools. These tools are physical artifacts designed and shared by the open-source community, aligning with the principles of open source hardware (OSH) and fostering innovation in the realm of manufacturing and engineering.

Building Up and Scaling Local Production[edit | edit source]

Fab Labs and makerspaces require a certain set of technical capabilities to benefit their users. With commercial machine tools, the initial investment is very high (easily more than 250k USD) and lab managers are stuck with vendor lock-ins or lack of documentation for maintenance and repair. Not to mention that some regions in the world might not even be able to access machines or spare parts. This is where the concept of Open Labs comes into play: The idea is to equip and run Fab Labs with affordable, accessible, and reproducible open source machine tools in order to address the previously mentioned challenges.

The Open Lab concept has further evolved into the so-called Open Lab Start Kit comprising a set of open source machine tools tailored for Fab Labs and makerspaces. The development process focuses on increasing replicability, striving for the quality of commercial machines, transferring knowledge, empowering individuals to utilize the machines effectively, and ultimately fostering distributed production and a circular economy. The goal is to create a fully open source ecosystem akin to a "Wikipedia for Machine Tools."

The Open Lab Starter Kit Goals are:
  • Develop Open Source Digital Fabrication Machines
  • Document the reproduction process
  • Fill the gap between commercial and Open Source machines
  • Lower the barriers in accessing digital fabrication technologies
  • Transfer the knowledge behind the machines
  • Include and enable anyone in the process
  • Create fully Open Source Fab Labs (Open Labs)
  • Boost the Fab Cities’ local production and circular economy

At present, eight types of machines are being developed through the Fab City research project at the New Production Institute in collaboration with InMachines GmbH, including laser cutters, CNC routers, 3D printers, a vinyl cutter and a 3D scanner. These machines not only meet high safety standards but also function effectively and possess an aesthetically pleasing design. Furthermore, their open source nature allows individuals to choose from various options: building the machine from scratch using the provided Bill of Materials (BOM), purchasing a ready-to-use machine from a distributor, or acquiring a prepared kit and assembling it following detailed instructions. The Fabulaser, which is part of the Open Lab Starter Kit, was designed to be a DIY Assembly Kit, and brings an affordable quality laser cutter to schools that want to teach digital fabrication. It includes an easy to follow step-by-step instructions manual. The Fabulaser is one example of the open source machines that each Tolocar is equipped with. Tolocar teams have hosted several machine build workshops in Ukraine to help makers build and use open source machines.

Fabulaser Replication Workshop[edit | edit source]

Konotop, located in northeastern Ukraine about 180 km from the Russian border and home to over 85,000 people, was occupied during the full-scale Russian invasion and liberated in April 2022. As a previous railroad hub renowned for its mechanical engineering sector, Konotop now faces significant challenges in rebuilding its industries.

The Tolocar project supports the establishment and development of a makerspace at the Classical Professional College of Sumy State University. This project has long been in the works and planned by the Polytech in collaboration with Robogenius Kon, a civil society organization which offers Coding, Robotics & Artificial Intelligence courses for kids and is part of the local IT Cluster.

After an initial visit to replicate two 3D printers and to train teachers and students on their usage, the Tolocar team returned for a week-long visit, during which they replicated a Fabulaser Mini. They facilitated the assembly of a Fabulaser Mini with teachers and students on site, while Liane Honda of the InMachines team guided them through the whole assembly process using online video calls. The laser was built from scratch, with each step from the Fabulaser Mini Workbook being taken deliberately and explained thoroughly by Liane. Following this approach takes several days, but ensures that those who use the laser understand its components, functioning, and calibration, and are able to maintain the machine, and handle any potential malfunctions themselves.

In addition to facilitating the assembly process, the Tolocar team conducted workshops to enhance the makerspace's functionality. They used open designs from Hacklab in Kyiv to make pegboards in the soldering lab, allowing for easy replication and adaptation as the tools used in the makerspace change. Teachers at the Polytechnic College participated in a training of trainers focused on laser basics, safety, software usage, material preparation, drawing creation, and access to ready-made designs. Following this, the Tolocar team trained college students on how to operate the laser for their projects while providing an opportunity for teachers to observe the training facilitation.

The machines will be used in a newly established makerspace in Konotop, which will serve various purposes, and is intended to provide access to students from the school of robotics, technical college students, and city residents. College teachers will also utilize the Open Source Machines for educational practices, production projects, as well as supporting the further development of the makerspace. The establishment of the makerspace and the integration of the Fabulaser Mini and 3D printers are significant steps towards fostering innovation, entrepreneurship, and educational development in Konotop.

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Authors Victoria Wenzelmann
License CC-BY-SA-4.0
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 28 pages link here
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Created December 4, 2023 by Victoria Wenzelmann
Modified January 19, 2024 by Emilio Velis
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