MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld talks about his Fab Lab — a low-cost lab that lets people build things they need using digital and analog tools. It’s a simple idea with powerful results.
MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld is re-defining the boundaries between the digital and analog worlds. The digital revolution is over, Gershenfeld says. We won. What comes next? His Center for Bits and Atoms has developed a raft of answers, including Internet 0, a tiny Web server that fits into lightbulbs and doorknobs, networking the physical world in previously unimaginable ways.
But Gershenfeld is best known as a pioneer in personal fabrication — small-scale manufacturing enabled by digital technologies, which gives people the tools to build literally anything they can imagine. His famous Fab Lab is immensely popular among students at MIT, who crowd Gershenfeld’s classes. But the concept is potentially life-altering in the developing world, where a Fab Lab with just $20,000 worth of laser cutters, milling machines and soldering irons can transform a community, helping people harness their creativity to build the things they need, including tools, replacement parts and essential products unavailable in the local market. Gershenfeld’s latest book is Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop.