The city of Hamburg (Germany) will support the creation of labs that enable inventors to build open source hardware machines. The hardware labs are intended to help the city progress towards a circular economy. Earlier this summer Hamburg joined the ‘Fab City Network’, joining Seoul, Paris, Boston and other cities that have pledged to ”work towards producing everything they consume by 2054”.
The emphasis on open hardware makes Hamburg’s announcement stand out. “Open hardware labs are different from other labs. It’s not about a room full of computers. Fab City lab machinery requires much more space, and consumes a lot more electricity,” says one of the organisers, Dr.-Ing Tobias Redlich at the production engineering lab (Laboratorium für Fertigungstechnik) at the Helmut-Schmidt University.
The labs will be able to help researchers, innovators and start-ups to build complicated machines, for example laser cutters, lathes, grinders and 3D printers, all of them based on open source hardware components, Mr Redlich explains to the European Commission’s Open Source Observatory. “We will train people to train others, and we will be providing training material and documentation to enable basically anyone interested to build such complicated machines.”
Cities have a real need for such CNC labs, he says, to make it possible to build prototypes, and to help people connect with others working on full-scale hardware models.
The Fab Cities intend to pilot interventions and deployments together with citizens, makers, SMEs, startups, and policy makers. “Hamburg already has lots of startups, and some of these really need help to get access to our machines and the services around them,” Dr Redlich says.
The overarching aim is to create cities that can face up to ecological and social challenges. The network has already created a thousand such labs, the city of Hamburg writes in its announcement. The Fab Cities hope that the products of the future will be designed globally and then manufactured locally.
The Laboratorium für Fertigungstechnik is involved in multiple open hardware initiatives. Examples include Make a Difference, a hackathon focusing on agricultural challenges (deadline for submitting ideas is 27 September), and Makers for Tunisia, where labs are created to help tackle youth unemployment.