Benjamin Stromberg

If you only start looking in a niche the solutions are not that extensive.

A conversation with Wolf Jeschonnek on the potential of FabLabs

Young, vibrant, international are some of the terms that instantly come to mind as soon as you enter the FabLab in Berlin: typical Berlin. However, this would not be accurate because Berlin’s FabLab is only three years old, making it even younger than many other FabLabs that are to be found in large cities all over Germany. Most of these FabLabs deal with 3D-printing and Laser technologies,  but for what purpose?

“The focus of the FabLabs lies in the educational and enlightening purpose”, explains Wolf Jeschonnek, founder and manager of the FabLab in Berlin. “I did research about FabLabs and I had the desire to create such a place; a place where I can advance my projects. With the idea to found one I flew to the US and collected impressions of the existing FabLabs. […] The first FabLabs there were founded around 2003. In Germany they came in 2008. This means five years further development that you can highly recognize within the structures and organization of the FabLabs. […] I think the whole ecosystem for innovation culture and structure is more developed over there. Anything that deals with the topic of Maker Faire is clearly more developed. Someone from Maker Faire was even at the White House and presented 3D-Print, so the topic was discussed in a political setting. We are far away from these conditions in Germany.”

3D Printer i3 Berlin

And it’s true, we are far away from this in Germany. The FabLabs are about providing modern machines and materials which will be the basis of technologically advanced societies in the future. This is why the FabLab primarily attracts people from the IT and MINT area. However, there are remarkable exceptions to this general rule, “Although there are not as many people from other areas, for example there are not more than ten percent artists, I consider it as diverse enough, because it’s very open and there is no forced connection to a university. All interested people just come and we cannot serve a broader spectrum of the public. We also strive for all ages. The professional depth is supported by professionals who support simple and complex questions. We share our knowledge because it’s the main idea of this place”, Wolf tells us. “We want to be considered as the intersection between people who invent technology and people who use it. The difference is whether you are a normal user of the technology or you become creative looking beyond the surface. The important objective is to design technology more transparent in its basics. This is why such a place exists.”

Right here one can find the huge potential of a lively FabLab: a random melting pot of people with different backgrounds, ages, interests, and skills. This is a factor that is ignored or created artificially at corporate business incubators. “Those act in a more goal-oriented and pragmatic fashion so that the potential of innovation is distinct to us. If you only start looking in a niche, the solutions are not so extensive. We are the opposite because we are very broad”, Wolf mentions. But he knows he still owes a proof for the FabLab’s ability to innovate. So far one cannot blame him for lacking that proof. It’s only been three years since the foundation; three years in which Wolf and his team stepped forward into a collaborative and creative future that still is far away for many of us.

The complete interview with Wolf Jeschonnek in German language


Text by Benjamin Stromberg.
The interview was conducted by Benjamin Stromberg on 03/10/2016.
Image source: Wolf Jeschonnek / FabLab Berlin.

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