Tuesday Nov. 23, Fabrication

Reading discussion led by Mar and David H.

1 Comment so far

  1. dhill24 on November 21st, 2010

    Beyond the Digital Revolution: Digitizing Fabrication

    Neil Gershenfeld is the director of the Center for Bits and Atoms and professor at MIT. CBA is a “group of people”, as Professor Gershenfeld states, “that do not make the difference between physical science and computer science”. The book, as the title indicates, deals with the “coming revolution on your desktops-from personal computers to personal fabrication”, which happens to be one that extends the digital revolution.In particular, he draws a parallel between the advent of the PC from a mainframe computer and the advent of Personal Fabricators. A PF is a machine that makes machines; its output rearranges atoms as well as bits. The output is not just a three dimensional form, but a complete functioning system with both a physical and a logical function.

    User-Centered Fabrication

    Programmable personal fabricators are already available and Fab is a narrative about how the concept has developed with some students at MIT and with the “Fab Labs” around the world. Professor Gershenfeld states that he came up with the concept of PF through his teaching of a class at MIT called, “How to make (almost) anything”. Initially targeting researchers only, this class has become a sort of “teaching on demand” or “just-in-time” educational model, since many of the students he encounters are illiterate of all or many of the tools he teaches. However, their personal desires and needs for customized designs drove their willingness to learn the tools and build their unique output. This could imply a return to a production model where the driver is the fulfillment of a personal desire rather than mass market needs. This approach can only be possible in the case of a personal fabricator; it would not be possible to fulfill individual desires with a mass production system approach.

    The other example of personal fabricator users is the communities that have locally implemented the “fab labs” all around the world (http://fab.cba.mit.edu/about/labs/). These are shops with tools that allow users to build within many scales and many materials with very precise specifications (http://fab.cba.mit.edu/about/fab/inv.html), within a budget of around $20,000. The labs were sort of an extended launched prototype of personal fabricators, meant to be economically self-sustaining. They have had such success that in some places they have been asked to duplicate the labs. The need for tools that allow local development of design solutions is the strength or “killer app” that has contributed to the increased development of “fab labs”. It is to bring the infrastructure more than the commodity. Appropriate computation will then extend the realm of appropriate technology.

    From “pervasive computing” to pervasive educational fabrication

    The second reading starts with a similar message.It argues that when considering “pervasive computing”, one should not identify it with “pervasive processing”, but rather with the tools that link the computer to the physical world of inputs and outputs; the tools misleadingly called peripherals.

    However, here the focus is in another type of user and system: children and education. This type of education advocates for “pervasive educational fabrication”, which is “the power and advantages of educational fabrication broadened and augmented by making it much more compatible with the values (portability, ubiquity, accessibility, interoperability) of pervasive computing.” The authors develop three examples of the use of this pervasive educational fabrication: ornamentation, personal expression and learning process. First, they acknowledge the importance of those three concepts linked with construction. Then, they envision possible scenarios of the application of pervasive construction.

    What must be highlighted is their example of the possibility of extending the use of personal scanners that could be linked to personal home fabricators; allowing children to actively participate in the learning process by scanning what they see and have it printed at home later. The authors make an analogy to the portable camera or “nature scrapbooking”.

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