A Visit To Kerala’s Super FabLab

Pallab Shrestha, Innovation Guru for Nepal FabLab flew to India on 19th January to participate in the newly launched Super FabLab in Kochi, Kerala. Always an enthusiast when it comes to product designing and manufacturing, this noteworthy visit was full of hands-on experiences and well-built networking for Pallab as he collected some amazing learnings for running Nepal’s first FabLab!

How was your trip to Kerala personally?

Well, it was my first visit to India and I am really happy that I got the chance to explore the beautiful state of Kerala! From its affable weather, emerald-green scenery to welcoming people, I must admit how refreshed I felt after the visit. The day of arrival was quite hectic but overall, the expedition was pleasing and productive. Now, I am more energized about the launch of our own Nepal FabLab in 2020 at Nepal Communitere!

Pallab Shrestha on the Backwaters Marine Drive

Could you please share some of your insights on Super FabLab?

Super FabLab is the larger version of the mini fabrication laboratory where digital prototyping of any idea or product is done on a larger scale with ample access to modern technologies and supervision. It fosters the R&D and product development process. The SuperLab aims to democratize the technology for community-based organizations and enhance the ‘Maker’ culture. The one that I visited in Kochi was launched in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was funded by the Indian government. Around 70 startups are engaged in this particular Super FabLab. It will help set up the Integrated Startup Complex (ISC), one of India’s most sought-after investment hubs that is coming after the electronics hardware incubator Maker Village and its biotech counterpart Bio-Nest. It’s critical that Nepal joins the South Asian movement towards digital fabrication and enhancing our own technical R&D skills and infrastructure.

Prof. Neil Gershenfeld, the Director of the MIT Centre for Bits and Atoms sharing his knowledge about Super FabLab

What were your expectations from the visit and how well did it match with reality?

Honestly speaking, I was really curious about how the layout of machinery is set up and was excited to see how people get engaged in a FabLab to shape their ideas into reality. Although I didn’t get a chance to have a comprehensive study of all the available technology in this short visit, I was able to gather a clear vision of a FabLab’s working mechanism. I was able to see exclusive technologies like Wire EDM and Water Jet Machine. So the reality surpassed my expectations. Moreover, there was a Boot Camp conducted for FabLab Gurus from different parts of the world who were all certified moderators and mentors for FabLabs. After networking with them, I felt like Nepal is equally capable to bridge the gap between innovation and the market if we can create a technology-friendly environment for every entrepreneur, innovator, artist, hobbyist, student and much more!

Open Space for Kerala Super FabLab

What’s your reflection on how Nepal can leverage the FabLab?

It’s never too late to adopt something for the benefit of the community. There are already more than 2000 FabLabs across the globe. We are launching the first one in Nepal, which can be both advantageous and challenging at the same time. We are currently reliant on China, India, Vietnam and other countries to create quality prototypes, which is not possible for many entrepreneurs in Nepal. However, with the establishment of Nepal FabLab, we are trying to reduce risks, costs and support entrepreneurs through product design skills. By being a part of our FabLab community, we can access a network of over 2000 FabLabs across the globe, and experiment, discover, prototype, innovate and implement new or improved technology. It is not just a lab, but an opportunity to collectively create solutions for local as well as global problems. 

Advanced digital equipment in the Kerala Super FabLab

How is the preparation for the Nepal FabLab and how can we join?

It is satisfying to see how every member of Nepal Communitere is working so hard for the FabLab project. We have already started the renovation of our space for setting up a wide range of digital fabrication equipment like CNC routers, laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC milling, silk screening and embroidery as a part of FabLab. We are looking forward to collaborating with universities so that students can access these facilities. Private companies can also utilize the lab for product designing and small scale manufacturing through the FabLab. Startups can test their idea under our guidance at a very decent subsidized rate. Hence, if you think you have that creative energy ready to build new ideas, test and validate them, then you must visit Nepal Communitere’s FabLab because you might know more than you think! The FabLab is committed to being an inclusive and accessible space for all users so there will be free open FabLab days every week along with exclusive membership days as well as workshops and classes on the use of specific digital fabrication equipment. Keep your eyes out for more information in the coming weeks!