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The Future of 'Fab Lab' Fabrication (wired.com) 24

An anonymous reader shares a report: In 1965, tech pioneer Gordon Moore noticed a trend: The number of components on an integrated circuit was doubling every year. Long story short: The world of bits was transformed. Could the same thing be happening now -- to the world of atoms? Neil Gershenfeld thinks it is. He's the MIT professor who in 2003 helped create the first "fab lab": a roomful of computer-guided fabrication tools, like laser cutters and mills for carving materials, that allows everyday people to create things with a precision normally available only to a Boeing or Siemens.

In 2009, Gershenfeld helped set up the Fab Foundation in part to help people make products they needed that the mass market wasn't providing. It took off. Indian farmers used fab labs to create instruments to verify the quality of milk; a Kenyan engineering student made "vein finder" tools for doctors. By 2016 there were more than 1,000 fab labs worldwide. Then Sherry Lassiter, who leads the Fab Foundation and is known as "Lass," noticed that the global total was doubling every year. It looked just like Moore's law! Now there's Lass' law -- the prediction that the number of fab labs, or such tools, will double roughly every year and a half. Why would this be happening? It's part inspiration (people hear about the labs and want their own) and, as with Moore's law, technical progress: The machinery has gotten cheaper and more digitized. If Lass' law continues, custom fabrication will explode.

The Future of 'Fab Lab' Fabrication

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  • "Law" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Khyber ( 864651 )

    It's a fucking conjecture. Law has an actual definition in scientific terms.

    • So what you're telling me is that Zuck's law that says Facebook users double every year isn't a real law??

      • The expanding surface of the mass of facebook users would exceed the speed of light in a relatively few years.

    • They're just trying to get someone to claim that "Lass is Moore", or that they're "doing Lass with Moore".
      • They're just trying to get someone to claim that "Lass is Moore", or that they're "doing Lass with Moore".

        Moore or Lass...

    • "Law has an actual definition in scientific terms." ...which is a statement about observations that has descriptive qualities, e.g. Moore's Law.

      A conjecture is a proposed explanation, which Moore's Law does not provide.

    • Typical of the rigid, constricted thought patterns to be expected of someone who has never progressed past concrete thinking.
  • by EndlessNameless ( 673105 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @04:46PM (#56223439)

    Moore's Law relied on technological advances in the semiconductor industry to fuel its projected growth. There is no practical or predictable limit on such growth until you run into a wall dealing with fundamental physics.

    Lass's Law relies on adoption of a technology by commercial, state, and private entities for its growth---of which there are a limited supply. We are most likely looking at the beginning of an S-curve and mistaking it for an exponential or geometric curve. It is quite conceivable that the market for these devices will be saturated in time.

    • Lass's Law can function if a collection of smart tools can produce the parts to copy themselves. Factories that produce machine tools and robots already use their own products to make more of them, so it is feasible in principle that a starter set of those and other needed machines can make a copy on a time scale of ~18 months.

    • And theyâ(TM)ve miss-quoted Mooreâ(TM)s Law by 100%. Presumably reality was a little inconvenient given that this isnâ(TM)t much of a story even with the attempted Mooreâ(TM)s Law connection.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wik... [wikipedia.org]

    • I agree. Besides, there are many people arguing that Moore's law is a psychological law: Each manufacturer knew in advance what was expected from the industry and what would the competition achieve, so they struggle to get to the foretold integration level. This is simply not available in fab labs, where there is no such "competition".

  • Here in my sleepy little California town, there is a maker space with a full-blown "fab lab". Just the other day, I was talking to a guy who has developed high-precision harmonica combs using some of these tools. He says they're some of the most air-tight ever made and he has a patent. Oh yeah, and they're made of hemp. I love California.

  • Machinist workshop or more modernly, machine park and it's been a standard since before industrial revolution really got going. Many businesses do nothing else but manufacture custom parts as ordered, some machine parks are part of a larger business but still take outside orders. If you have entire product design there are companies willing to source the parts and manufacture that too.
    Jeez, the guy talks as if he came up with something new, when in fact the entire bloody world has operated like that since

A bug in the hand is better than one as yet undetected.