Cat Johnson writes about the “Fab Market”, which is an initiative associated with the world-renowned Barcelona Fab Lab. The basic idea is an online shop that sells products to be made at a local Fab Lab. The designs are created by designers anywhere in the world, and are supposed to be open source. The Barcelona group curates the collection, conducting quality control and overseeing the system.
The business model appears to be that you will pay to obtain either the plans (which are supposedly “open source”), or the parts ready to assemble (DIY), or a fully assembled product. The fabrication and assembly are done at your local Fab Lab—supporting the local economy and reducing transport costs. Some of the revenue goes to the local Fab Lab, some to the workers, and some to the designer.
This effort is part of a larger vision of “Fab Cities” http://fab.city/, which imagines more self sufficient cities that fabricate a significant portion of their goods locally. Even before anything like that is achieved, this idea may be an opportunity for designers and for local workers.
Johnson summarizes the potential of the Fab Market:
“Some of the benefits of the Fab Market system are:
- Engaging and empowering people in the manufacturing process
- Spreading the open-source ethos of sharing and collaboration
- Reducing environmental impact of creating and transporting goods
- Increasing transparency in the supply chain
- Reducing the time and costs of production
- Giving talented designers a platform for showcasing and sharing their products
- Connecting a global community of makers
The big picture for Fab Market is to create a distributed economy based on good design and quality products that are made to last.”
This effort joins existing “open source hardware” concepts, all of which are creating a global collection of artifacts for gardening, office furniture, clothing, plastic recycling and housing and homesteading.
In the same vein as Fab Market, Obrary is a global library of open source designs, available for free download (under creative commons).
Looking at Obrary back in 2014, I commented:
“Suggested Feature: One thing I would really like in a service like this would be some way to find local workers who will build. For example, if I need beehives, and I find a design I like at Obrary, and I want to buy one or more. It would be nice to have a way to find one or more people in my town with the skills and tools, and pay them to do the build. In this case, there might reasonably be a “suggest donation” back to the designers, but most of the money would be in my local economy, supporting families where I live.
“This can be done informally, and I’m sure it will. But is there a role for something like Obrary in this process? And if so, how should it be done?” (Posted September 5, 2014)
Voila! Barcelona is trying to do exactly this with their Fab Market. How can I disagree with something that was my own idea! 🙂
The obvious next step is to integrate and cross-fertilize these “open source hardware” collections. For example, it should be easy to order up anything in Obrary, and the collection in Fab Market should be accessible via Obrary. Ditto for Aker, OpenDesk, The Global Village Construction Kit, and so on.
I think this kind of interoperation should be doable, with a little bit of imagination to make Fab Market, Obrary, and so on part of an open network of catalogs. (Talk to your local librarian about open standards for catalogs….)
Such a development will also make it possible for others to join in with yet other curated collections of open source hardware, possibly with different business models. For example, garden equipment might be discounted for people who are certified participants in local food exchanges.
Note that Fab Market and the other sites are effectively offering their services as expert curators. This means that a consumer can have several options among curators, to get different perspectives. Opening up the curating process will make it possible for bottom up and peer-to-peer “curation”, so anyone can pull together an inventory of designs, and offer them to the global market of local makers. It is also an opportunity for local makers and builders to advertise their expertise (by referring to the global catalog).
This is an interesting developments. We’ll see what happens in the future.
- Cat Johnson, Here’s How Fab Market is Creating a Sustainable Marketplace. Sharable.January 17 2017, http://www.shareable.net/blog/heres-how-fab-market-is-creating-a-sustainable-marketplace