The Economist writes:

Neil Gershenfeld, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Centre for Bits and Atoms, has built version 1.0 of the personal fabricator, and it is already being deployed around the world.

The fab lab, as Dr Gershenfeld has nicknamed his invention, is a collection of commercially available machines that, while not yet able to put things together from their component atoms, can, according to its inventor, be used to make just about anything with features bigger than those of a computer chip. Among other tools it includes a laser cutter that makes two-dimensional and three-dimensional structures, a device that uses a computer-controlled knife to carve antennas and flexible electrical connections, a miniature milling machine that manoeuvres a cutting tool in three dimensions to make circuit boards and other precision parts, a set of software for programming cheap computer chips known as microcontrollers, and a jigsaw (a narrow-bladed cutting device, not a picture puzzle). Together, these can machine objects with a precision of a millionth of a metre. The fab lab’s purpose is to endow inventorsparticularly those in poor countries who lack a formal education and the resources to implement their ideaswith a set of tools that can translate back-of-the-envelope designs into working prototypes.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.