European project PHABLABS 4.0

Photonics enhanced Fab Labs supporting the next digital revolution

PHABLABS 4.0 combined two major trends into one powerful and ambitious innovation pathway for digitization of European industry: on the one hand the growing awareness of photonics as an important innovation driver and a Key Enabling Technology* (KET) towards a better society, and on the other hand the exploding network of vibrant Fab Labs where next- generation practical skills-based learning using KETs is core but where photonics was currently lacking.

Photonics is the science and technology that exploits the unique properties of light to produce innovative, durable, energy friendly products that improve the quality of our lives. Today photonics is an essential technology in areas such as energy, healthcare, communications, manufacturing and culture.

A Fab Lab, or fabrication laboratory, is a makerspace equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC milling machines, electronics and all kinds of consumables where you can make almost anything. A Fab Lab is a technical prototyping facility for innovation, experimentation and invention, providing stimulus for modern technology-based entrepreneurship at a local level. A Fab Lab is also a platform for learning and innovation: a place to play, to create, to learn, to mentor, and to invent.

One of PHABLABS’ 4.0 aims, was to permanently integrate photonics into Fab Labs. Experts from 13 European photonics institutes and STEM-orientated organizations as well as Fab Lab stakeholders developed 33 photonics workshops, 11 photonics challenger projects and photonic toolkits to enhance Fab Labs.

During the 2 year project over 2200 children, students and young professionals participated to the activities.

A gender-sensitive approach has been followed during the development and implementation of the workshops and Challenger Projects in order to increase the number of girls interested in STEM and considering a career in this field. Best-practices have been summarised in the booklet new booklet, Gender Balanced Approach which has been developed in close cooperation with Professor Averil MacDonald from WISE (Women in Science and Engineering).   

Steinbeis 2i GmbH together with Fab Lab Karlsruhe has organised over 20 workshops within the project. Three of the workshops (Laser Labyrinth, Heliostat und Persistence of Vision) and one Challenger Project have been developed by Fablab Karlsruhe itself.

The instructions for the workshops are all available for free on the project website. Above that, a photonics toolkit as well as specific workshop materials can be ordered via this link.

Project Duration: 12/2016 – 05/2019

Participating countries: Belgium, Germany, France, GB, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Austria, Spain

* Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) are a group of six technologies (micro and nanoelectronics, nanotechnology, industrial biotechnology, advanced materials, photonics, and advanced manufacturing technologies, as defined by the European Commission), They have a wide range of product applications such as developing low carbon energy technologies, improving energy and resource efficiency, and creating new medical products. They have huge potential to fuel economic growth and provide jobs.

Portrait Robert Gohla
Robert Gohla
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