15 Oct 2014 |
Research article |
Entrepreneurship & Management
ÉchoFab: The first Canadian fab lab accredited by MIT
Header image courtesy of Communautique: Substance CC license applies to it.
“Above all else, fab labs aim to give individuals and communities the skills they need to take control of our collective future.”
An open innovation space and initiative of Communautique, échoFab was the first Canadian Fab Lab to be accredited by MIT. Considered by some as the “third industrial revolution,” fab labs are part of a larger movement that spurs community members to innovate, create, produce, distribute, consume and finance projects—in addition to repairing and recycling their goods on their own or with the help of others. These workshops are also designed to facilitate partnerships for organizations and regions; they act as an interface between open innovation spaces, user communities and organizational research and development. In her article entitled “Communautique: Promoting community engagement through communications and ICT” published on the Substance ÉTS blog, Monique Chartrand describes the mission and vision of Communautique.
ÉchoFab is a space dedicated to creation and digital manufacturing. It’s open to the public two days per week and open to the ÉTS community another three days per week. At échoFab, users can use advanced technologies and get access to technical expertise for innovative projects. A true platform for multidisciplinary collaboration, échoFab brings together a growing community designers, programmers, engineers, inventors, students, craftspeople, entrepreneurs and artists of all ages. It offers connected tools at a low cost, a heterogeneous group of users, a fresh vision of intellectual property and the strength of real and virtual communities.
ÉchoFab is a participatory space where everyone has access to technology and can learn to create, carry out projects and share knowledge with other community members. It is a digital manufacturing lab and a place where information is passed on to the masses. It is also a place to invent and generate concrete solutions through the co-creation of new-generation objects that are documented, replicable and improvable. The workshop allows for cross-pollination, open innovation, the demystification of new technologies and ongoing development that relies on tangible objects—often interactive and connected to the Internet—as opposed to computer code.
ÉchoFab promotes knowledge transfer and sharing to improve quality of life and innovation on the scientific, economic, social and technological fronts. échoFab subscribes to a vision of a community of learning that supports sustainable development. Moreover, it encourages entrepreneurship by attracting personal and group projects and offering participants the right conditions to develop their ideas in a collaborative setting.
The collective benefits of échoFab
- Refresh and enhance the skills and knowledge of fab lab participants by promoting peer collaboration, leveraging user experiences, encouraging personal or group projects, fostering computer and technology literacy, and supporting skills acquisition.
- Encourage innovation and creation in local communities by giving individuals access to versatile equipment, varied materials and knowledge-exchange networks.
- Raise awareness about the advantages of repurposing materials, reusing goods and repairing equipment.
- Provide a public space for exploring new technologies and participating in their development with a sustainable approach.
- Serve as a pilot project for fab labs in the Greater Montreal Area and Quebec as a whole.
After a successful kick-off and various partnership meetings, échoFab has already earned a reputation in the digital manufacturing field. The fact that échoFab has participated in several local, national and international events has also helped the organization become more well-known. échoFab organized a tour of European fab labs in October 2012 and participated in FAB9 and FAB10, meetings held in Japan in August 2013, and in Barcelona in June 2014, respectively.
Innovative projects have been developed in échoFab’s laboratory, including échoRap, the first 3D printer designed entirely in Quebec, in collaboration with computer engineer Stéphane Rousseau, who works closely with the organization.
Another example is Arduiflo, a fully automated irrigation system that has an autonomous energy supply and whose publication is open. It was designed and executed jointly by teams of facilitators and users. This experience allowed them to explore the open-design process and community financing. ÉchoFab has also contributed to the development of artistic projects and even has an artist in residence.
ÉchoFab’s core asset
More than anything else, échoFab is a place where people from all backgrounds can share ideas on projects. The diversity of its users and their broad range of experience and knowledge is what keeps the community dynamic and sparks the confidence that characterizes the organization. This allows knowledge to be transmitted and shared.
At échoFab, extensive know-how and knowledge are available to users, and training sessions are organized on site to teach people how to use specific machines or software. Experts and professionals are given the chance to organize workshops and share what they know.
Access to Training for MIT Fab Labs
What’s in the works for échoFab? A business project plans to open up access to MIT training in Montreal and across Canada for future Fab Managers, workers and creators interested in digital manufacturing.
The MIT training covers digital manufacturing and specifically the rapid prototyping taught in the MIT course called “How to Make (Almost) Anything.” What started as an awareness campaign has since spread to fab labs around the world.
Communautique hopes to offer a residency to an MIT-accredited individual so that the program can be offered as soon as January 2015. Communautique also hopes to work jointly with the Fab Labs Québec community and other organizations to develop and structure a wiki tool to support the co-development of educational activities.
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Open to the public on Monday and Thursday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Open to the ÉTS community on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Carrefour d’innovation INGO
355 Peel Street, Suite 111 – Montreal
Contact: Marc-Olivier Ducharme, Fab Manager <[email protected]ommunautique.qc.ca>
Monique Chartrand is the Director General at Communautique.