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FABmonday Ep.1 | Fablab 101 – All you have to know

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The best way to understand what Fablab is and how it works is to talk to those who make it work. For this reason, there is no better person to tell you about Fablab Torino than the Fablab Manager Francesco Pasino, better known as Paso.

Paso has been a member of Fablab Torino since 2013. He was a member of the board of directors of the Association in 2018-19 and from January 2020 has held the position of Fablab Manager. We asked him to tell us something about the machines, people, and ideas that can be found in a digital manufacturing laboratory, and how they interact to create the Fablab Torino.

Who is the Turin Fablab Manager?

I would start by clarifying that the title of Fablab Manager is less authoritarian than it may seem: Fablabs by their nature are places animated by a somewhat anarchic spirit. It is management in its most concrete and practical sense. The lab must be managed, which often means moving chairs and tables, rearranging tools, taking care of the maintenance of the machines, making sure that everything is there, and that everything works as it should. Starting with …

THE MACHINERY

In our laboratory, there are all which could be defined as Fablab essentials:

  • Matilda, our laser cutter,
  • Two CNC milling machines (one pantograph and one for modeling),
  • One vinyl cutter
  • Two 3D printers (at the moment).
  • And then of course the tool bench, where you can find all the more traditional but still essential tools, both for carpentry and electronics, such as a soldering iron, screwdrivers, hammers, and drills.

For each of these machines, we organize free basic courses and practical workshops every month, open to all our members and in many cases free. This is because it is essential to put everyone in a position to be able to use the machines independently – and also to make mistakes independently. Those who start from the basics always find someone (usually me) ready to help them. We are very keen to encourage the spirit of initiative and we want the exchange of skills between our members to be stimulating and interesting for everyone. The spirit of a maker can also be seen from this: if you want to achieve something, don’t sit still and wait for someone to explain how to do it. Instead, you invent a way to do it and then ask for feedback from those who know more than you to improve it.

THE PEOPLE

You can have the machines, you can have the tools, you can have the yellow tables, but Fablab doesn’t exist without its community. The heart of our association is made up of makers who over the years, from 2012 to today, have chosen the Fablab as a place to network and develop their projects. Among them, there are several makers of the first hour, who have attended these spaces since the opening or even since the Fablab Torino was a temporary setting within the event Stazione Futuro at the OGR (it was the year 2011: before their closure and reopening).

Then there are students of the Polytechnic, IED, IAAD, UniTo & co, amateurs, and professionals in fields ranging from design to engineering to architecture, computer scientists and craftsmen, individuals or workgroups, who have crossed Fablab over the years. Sometimes they only hang out for a while, sometimes they stay. Each case and person is different and everyone is welcome. In the best of cases, even very different people meet and decide to create something together. Over the years, various more or less long-lived communities have sprung up spontaneously, dedicated to the different variations of the maker world: from those you would expect, such as 3D printing and Arduino, to more niche ones such as drones, biohacking and audio hacking. 

For years I have been part of the Audio HackLab collective which, as the name suggests, is dedicated to experimenting with new forms of music production, going from hacking existing instruments to creating new sound machines, thanks to the support of electronics and new technologies. We were born at Fablab but today we organize events, installations, and sound experiences in various places in Turin.

The challenge for the Board and for the Fablab Manager is to be able to create communication and coordination between the people and the souls of the laboratory, as much as possible and necessary for a Fablab – so not too much. Let’s defend the anarchist spirit of these places, the important thing is to organize just enough so that the processes continue to work.

THE IDEAS

This is the difficult part, because in a Fablab there are many, if not too many. The first years of opening were particularly intense and thriving with ideas: Fablab Torino was the first Fablab in Italy, but in a short time more were born all over the peninsula. Not only were we experiencing the boom of Arduino and crowdfunding projects, but there was also a lot of enthusiasm and a palpable climate of news and opportunities.

But the tech world is characterized by a hype cycle and the peak of expectations had been reached in a few years. As a result, interest in the association has decreased over time. The SEI School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation contributed to bringing a breath of fresh air and renewal when in 2018 it chose Fablab Torino as the location for initiatives such as the SEI Inventor Bootcamp. On the basis there was the need to be able to offer participants (all students) an equipped space where they can implement their ideas operationally, getting their hands dirty and using the tools themselves to create their prototypes.

Through meeting different makers and hearing about new ideas I got involved in a startup called SoundBubble. The SoundBubble idea was born back in 2017 during the “‘Innovation for Change’” event led by CDI Italia in collaboration with Politecnico di Torino, CERN, and partner companies.  SoundBubble was created to improve the safety and productivity of Blue Collar workers. Loud background noise is usually always present in Industrial environments and can have a profound impact on our wellbeing, the effectiveness of communication, and the ability to hear important signals. The solution we’re developing integrates software and electronics into standard industrial headphones and works to identify and pass through important signals and alarms while protecting the user from harmful noise and allowing for flexible team communication. My co-founders and I are really passionate about our solution and we’re working closely together to bring the product to the market and on all aspects of launching the start-up.

This is just one of the many ideas which are circulating and being developed at Fablab Torino at the moment.

All one has to do to get involved is subscribe to its membership and dive into it.

You can be sure I’ll be there to welcome you – and remind you to tidy up the lab once you’re finished working. 

Francesco “Paso”Pasino – Fablab Manager

Dive into Fablab Torino, here.

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