These emerging professions - I am a fablab manager

Romain di Vozzo is a fablab manager and as such takes care of the “management”, experiments and innovations related to prototyping at the (Fab)Lab Digiscope. Among other things… Discover the specificities of a profession with astonishing contours.

What is a fablab?

Fablabs are personal digital manufacturing laboratories equipped with a certain number of computer-controlled machines (mostly but not exclusively) among which we generally find a laser cutter, a 3D printer, a vinyl cutter and a digital milling machine. The list of machines and materials necessary for the operation of a fablab – according to the criteria defined by the CBA/MIT – is public (the Fab Lab Inventory). The fablab, its machines, and its users are governed by a charter of good practices (Fab Charter) which – without being restrictive – imposes a clear operating framework that brings together both the conditions necessary for the emergence of the most innovative practices /experimental and which also makes possible the reproduction of already functional projects developed in the international network of fab labs. In a fab lab, we act locally and think globally.

The fab lab manager, guarantor of the proper use of the machines

The place is managed by a fablab manager (which differs from a fab manager). The role of the Fab Lab Manager is not to produce objects instead of users; except possibly in the case where the fablab is open to private companies which pay a service to obtain the expertise of an experienced user (who may be a person other than the fablab manager) as well as to use the machines for commercial prototyping (but in no case can it be so-called “chain” commercial production which, as a result, would impute access to the machines of other types of users). In return for the use of the machines, the company must make all or part of its plans available free of charge to other users of the fablab, in an open-hardware logic. This last point concerns all users of the fablab, without exception.

The community at the center of the methodology

The dynamic of Fablabs is also based on a community of diligent users/experts who anchor their practices in the space of the fablab, thus constituting a group of referents capable of informally accompanying newcomers in their discovery of digital manufacturing and in their understanding of the practices in force in the fablab (safety rules, rules of life, etc.). In this context, the documentation of expert user projects is essential. The fablab manager promotes the construction of such a community by regularly offering group workshops from which these “experts” will gradually emerge, to whom he will then offer to provide training in an area or project of their choice, once a month. /per week. This community dynamic therefore allows the fablab to extend its practices well beyond the skills held by the fablab manager, guaranteeing the opening of the place to a maximum of fields and applications.

Experimentation and prototyping as pillars of creation

In a fablab, it is allowed/recommended to come to experiment, to carry out rapid prototyping of objects using machines, to group together on a common manufacturing project with other users, to acquire new technical skills (and other ), to share their knowledge, to train themselves, to document their own work in the form of sets of instructions to then transmit them to other people in the network of fablabs at the local/national/international level, etc. This is why the term “operator” poses a problem as it refers to a production chain, to an industrial logic that belongs more to the glossary of Taylorism. What is happening in the fablab movement is hybrid. We think about not wasting our time and resources, but we also come to the fablab to use our creativity and to experiment freely in an open logic, open-source, open-science, etc.

The role of the fab lab manager: a central point, at the heart of the innovation process

Therefore, the fablab manager is not an operator or a fab manager to whom a specific command is addressed in order to obtain a prototyped object. He is simultaneously a kind of maieutician, an animator/rhetorician, a technician, a designer who also understands the political issues intrinsic to DIY practices. It is a maker whose mission is to run the fablab, to ensure the proper articulation of practices in line with users, to organize training times, to manage the machine reservation calendar, to develop partnerships and exchanges with other fablabs via its personal/professional network, to stimulate the community through events, to manage materials and machines, to set up protocols for the use of machines and resources or to maintain the website , he must also ensure that everyone respects the obligation to document his work to make it reproducible by others… finally, he must be as “fluent” as possible on the machines at his disposal; he must also constantly continue to experiment for himself and train himself to follow the evolution of machines and the latest innovations (technical, technological, design, art, etc.).

Build close ties with research centers

Fablabs benefit from the proximity of research laboratories. The reverse is also true. The interest is mutual. The fablab facilitates exchange and experimentation between researchers, doctoral students, master's students, artists, engineers, internal or external staff, and with all imaginable audiences. The research center houses the fablab, provides equipment and staff, and it benefits – among many other things – from the decompartmentalization of practices that a fablab allows to operate, both within its walls, but also in its environment. close. In the best of cases, some projects carried out in fablab lead to success stories

What are you making today?

A “fablab” (Fabrication Laboratory) is a place of digital fabrication. Anyone with a project is welcome. We come to the fablab, we explain what we would like to make to the fab lab manager, we receive opinions and advice on how to carry out our project and we take action by reserving a slot on the fablab agenda. The phrase addressed by the fablab manager to a user who has just arrived is “what are you making today? “: We come to make stuff, simple or complicated objects, interactive or not, in a personal or professional setting.

Focus on the (Fab)Lab Digiscope

The (Fab)Lab Digiscope is first and foremost an Equipment of Excellence (Equipex) intended to receive all the researchers, engineers and students of the Digiscope program. But it will also welcome artists selected as part of the Art/Science call for projects by La diagonale Paris-Saclay, young creative people from the cultural center Le Ferry, engineers from the Laboratoire des Gaz et du Plasma, mediators from S [ Cube], CAPS staff, etc. Finally, we have recently received the agreement of the Digiscope program committee to welcome all audiences according to terms and conditions that remain to be defined and tested within the specific framework of our research center fablab. All you have to do is book your first interview with me on the (Fab)Lab Digiscope website !

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