01 Fab Shop

Fab Shop

Fab Shop is a set of low cost digital fab machines and systems that together can replicate each other to a very low level of components. The goal is to have each machine cost under $300 in parts to build in community workshops.

Fab Shop Ad

The Means of Production, Democratized

Gingery books put the means of production in the hands of the people… With some caveats, you needed to be highly skilled to produce the Gingery machines. The Fab Labs and Hacker Spaces have mashed-up Gingery machine building with digital design and fabrication. This has made it much easier for citizens to pool resources and make their own community owned machines and shops…putting the means of high tech manufacturing in the hands of the workers. I will design a set of core machines and add-ons to duplicate the means of industrial manufacturing on a hyper-personal scale. My resources will be citizens who operate the Fab Labs & Hacker spaces in Chicago, coupled with experience as a Hacker, Manufacturing Technologist, and educator for the past 30 years.

Monthly Build Workshops

The goal of Fab Shop is to demonstrate that Fab Labs, and Hacker Spaces can reproduce the means of digital fabrication, with a set of low cost DIY machines that are easy to build, replicate and operate. Fab Shop machines would be built in guided workshops hosted in local Fab Labs and Hacker Spaces. Builders will benefit from the technical skills of building machines from the ground up, allowing them to be unafraid to take apart and fix their own machines and other machines in the future. This will allow people to create mini Fab Labs, or Fab Shops, in their homes, apartments, and communities.

The Future

With iteration over time Fab Shop technicians will design and build the means of production to make things to improve their lives. In conjunction with larger arc projects, like Fab City, this will lead to everyday citizens being able to design and produce customized products that match many outputs of the current industrial manufacturing complex.

Core Fab Shop Machines

CNC Foam Router Named for now, Foam Crawler CNC. Capable of machining 0.6 x 1.2 meter (2x4 foot) foam sheet typically 6mm (1/4 inch) thick. Metal Casting Foundry Initially the Foundry in a Box system, which can cast tin, and Zin Alumin-12 alloys. Later to be morphed into the Open Foundry: Metal Casting System. Aluminum alloy melting capability will be added next. CNC Lathe Mill Capable CNC machining cylindrical and rectangular shapes as well as circuit boards. Size processed will be up to


Linux Scrap PC a PC taken from the scrap bin, upgraded with SSD and memory. I have developed CAD and CAM process flows during Fab Academy 2020 to work well using Linux Mint OS. 3D Printer Kit a non to the ORD Bot by Bart Dring and the MSI where the 1st ORD Bot was donated.
Vinyl Cutter Silhouette Portrait or Cameo 3 (store bought, not a kit)

Sizes, Shapes and Materials Processed

The set of machines and systems will be able to make parts ranging from 1mm to 1m cubed in size. The machines will be able to process sheet foam, wood, plastics, composites and non-ferrous metal. All machines will fit into a 100 square meter space in a small urban apartment or garage area. Shapes made will be rectangular, cylindrical and free-form. It is my opinion that processing of sturdy cylindrical shapes is sorely missing from current fab lab and hacker spaces.

All machine parts will be fabricated from raw bar and round stock as well as ingots, epoxy and other similar raw materials. Exceptions will be MakerSlide machine ways, spindles, stepper motors, common fasteners and bearings. Some electronics will be purchased, but the long term goal will be to mill and fab our own control boards. This will allow the Fab Shop machines to replicate themselves at a lower cost. Initial Fab Shop machine builds will be completed in guided workshops held at the MSI Chicago Fab Lab and the South Side Hackerspace: Chicago in late 2020.

First Machine: The CNC Foam Cutter

For my Fab Academy 2020 Final Project requirements to be met I will complete the 1st machine, the CNC Foam Cutter. I have always wanted to make a CNC foam cutter that is more capable and easier to use compared to my first CNC machine I built the PhlatPrinter.

Essentially, the laser cutter is one of the most powerful and easy to use machines in a Fab Lab. However Laser cutters are extremely expensive. Laser cutters are not easy to install and run at home.

A CNC foam sheet cutter is easy to use at home and is easier to install and run at home. Most importantly is that a CNC foam sheet cutter can be fabricated in a Fab Lab for around $300. A foam cutter can easily 0.6 x 1.2 meter (2x4 foot) foam sheet processing capability. This is much larger than a small laser cutter, and rivals a large bed laser cutter.

The casting and molding Fab Academy session also reminded me that large molds and patterns can be made on a medium format CNC foam sheet cutter.

The 1st Fab Shop machine to be design, fabricated and built will therefore be a CNC Foam Sheet Mill.

Project Management Timeline

Target Date Task
Jan 29 -June 5 Delays due to Chicago Rapid Response Manufacturing Project
June 17 Delays due to Chicago Rapid Response Manufacturing Project
June 8 Refocus machines to: CNC foam cutter, Foundry in a Box, CNC LatheMill
June 17 Focus on CNC Foam cutter for final project (Casting patterns, model aircraft, medium to large format foam sheet cutting)
June 23 Basic CAD Design of CNC Foam cutter
June 30 Advanced CAD Design
July 2 Ready or purchase final control boards and touchscreens
July 6 Manufacture and assemble prototype machine structure
July 13 wire and test machine
July 20 troubleshoot machine, iterate, improve
July 29 Present machine to Fab Academy

Origin Story

A project I worked on with fellow hacker Nick in 2011 made me realize how powerful it was to have your own digital fabrication machines at home. But I didn’t quite understand how to make that a reality at the time.

The first ideas for Fab Shop started emerging around July 2019 when I started to think about what kind of project I might want to do for Fab Academy 2020. I was especially inspired by several long discussions with Nadya Peek and Jens Dyvik and by the machines they have designed and built over the years. Machines that were designed with a deeply personal belief in democratizing the means of production for all.

I have also studied the MTM website for years and have extensive notes on machine ideas. I am also drawing inspiration from David Gingery’s book series on Build Your Own Metal Working Shop From Scrap book series. I call this project Fab Shop.

Mechatronics Warehouse

In 2018 I had the privilege to buy a warehouse full of high quality mechatronics parts that were going to be liquidated.

From this inventory the following parts will be used to build to build Fab Shop Machines:

Quantity Description
1323 Stepper Motor - NEMA 17
127 Stepper Motor Bracket
35 Stepper Motor - NEMA 23
196 MakerSlide Aluminum Extrusions 1000mm long
40 40x40, 20x80, 20 x 40mm Aluminum Extrusions
78 Quiet Cut Spindles
1189 HDPE Sheets
843 Acrylic sheets
79 Drag Chains
64 gShield

Notes and Sketches Archive