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FABlab fast tracking innovative technology

Kirstin Wiedow, Director and Co-founder of FABLab Namibia, with a shoe product printed out of the 3D-printer in their offices. (Photograhy by Comfort Ajibola)

Kirstin Wiedow, Director and Co-founder of FABLab Namibia, with a shoe product printed out of the 3D-printer in their offices. (Photograhy by Comfort Ajibola)

Fabrication Laboritory (FABlab) is the first advanced manufacturing, prototyping and design lab in Namibia that also offers their services to Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across the nation, assisting with branding elements and trends.
The lab is equipped with moulding, milling and routing, laser cutting, electronics, textiles, vinyl cutting, design software, 3D scanning and printing facilities, that assist the manufacturing processes to go faster and more efficiently.
Kirstin Wiedow, Director and Co-founder of FABlab Namibia, who established the lab with her husband, Bjorn Wiedow said, “after five years of planning and trying, we finally got the funding in 2013 through a partnership with the Ministry of Trade and Industry while the building and furniture was obtained through a partnership with GIZ, the German development organization and we officially opened in February this year.”
“The actual concept of the FABlab started quite a few years ago, in early 2000. It started in America and spread all over the world, to Iceland, Japan, Kenya and South Africa. There are about 200 FABlabs around the world,” she innovative
The lab was established in partnership with the Ministry of Trade to enhance local product competitiveness, bridge the technological divide through access to ICT, new machinery, tools, knowledge, skills and equipment; ultimately to give rise to a technologically and creatively advanced local economy. “People do not know that these amazing machines exist that can help with manufacturing and development of new products as well, so it is also about showcasing and opening up the community up to this kind of technology,” she explained. “But there is a big difference between overseas countries and African countries, because the skills that they acquire in schools already give them a more advantaged level in technology than with the African schools, because they are always on computers and so on,” she added She explained that there seems to be a fear barrier introducing the technology because people don’t know what it is and that whilst showcasing it they have to do a more intense work.  Currently the lab has an on-going project titled the HERD Campaign.

The campaign began on 26 August and will run till 18 September, it aims to add value to the wool industry of the country by educating women and youth in creating products out of the material. Kirstin said they would like to give an opportunity to children to engage with not just science and technology, but also art and creativity. “The classes we were doing are in partnership with the Tech Guys, Physical Active Youth Namibia (PAY) and BMC. We were working those core groups and they were around 12/13, when they were coming in, they would learn about the binary code, which is more like computer science, the language that computers talk, because you have to understand the basics before you can put it in to a practical application. we are focusing a bit on the youth, but we will expand it as soon as we have the capacity to hold more people,” she said. Citing the challenges, Kirstin said,“What we planned in the beginning, which has sort of changed is that we now help anybody with every product, just to bring them in and assist them. But due to the amount of demand we have limited capacity.” “We take in seven SMEs over a period of three months, where we give them intensive mentoring which covers the beginning of their branding, logo and all that, through to their whole corporate look and feel, to product development, packaging and labelling, and then to the final product for funding,” she explained. Kirstin then said,“We will be showcasing the HERD national wool campaign products at the International Participatory Design Conference(PDC) in October.”

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