It’s never a bad idea to give back.
But it’s just part of a message Paul Altidor, former ambassador of Haiti to the U.S., hoped to convey when he announced his intention behind locating a state-of-the-art fab lab in the town of Jérémie. The project potentially closes the gap between local makers and advanced global digital fabrication tools and skills.
The announcement was made during a media session at 3DEXPERIENCE World 2022 (Feb. 7-9). Altidor joined Sherry Lassiter, president & CEO of The Fab Foundation, and Suchit Jain, vice president of Strategy and Business Development for 3DExperience Works, Dassault Systèmes, in broadcasting the announcement during the virtual event.
In essence, fab labs provide a platform for capacity building, knowledge sharing and integration of hardware and software disciplines.
The Haitian fab lab will be the fifth in a series of facilities set up jointly by Dassault Systèmes and The Fab Foundation. The other four are located in Rwanda, Bhutan, Chile and Nepal.
Self-Replicating Fab Labs
Fab Lab Jérémie differs from the other four because it is planned as the first in a series of “self-replicating” fab labs. In other words, this facility will be equipped to make machines that can create the entire set of other machines, components and utilities needed to function a fab lab in a second community.
“We call this Fab Lab 2.0,” said Lassiter. “We’ve partnered with MIT’s Center for Bits & Atoms on a project called ‘Machines that Make,’ and can now produce the machines for a fab lab, in a fab lab.”
The Goal is to Provide Access
Locating the pilot in Jérémie will enable the Haitian community to build new economic opportunity locally, and to scale opportunity across the country,” Lassiter said. She described the project as a nexus of innovation and a network for the larger additive manufacturing community.
The fact that the facility can be set up at 1/10th the price of off-the-shelf technology is a strong motivator. The cost of setting up a typical fab lab is around $150,000 in materials, equipment and shipping. “It’s really hard for many communities around the world to have access to that kind of money, and these kinds of resources,” said Lassiter. “But when you make it yourself, you’re probably talking about $15,000. Now that becomes a lot more accessible to the community and to a business. And it makes it very scalable.”
Altidor explained that the project not only brings access to cutting edge technology to the community, but will serve to “reduce our dependency on a number of issues with the world” and open “a set of doors that were historically closed to people.”
Altidor, who is also native to the city of Jérémie, explained that 70% of the population is under the age of 25 and that locating the lab in Jérémie would be tantamount to building the future.
“We’re talking about designing, thinking, innovating for the future,” said the MIT graduate and guest lecturer. “Once you put these kinds of tools in the right hands, with the right guidance, the sky’s the limit in terms of enabling Haitian innovators—young folks in the country, engineers, designers. I do feel that this can be a catalyst for something that can happen.”