So you’re into the mobile Fab Lab business… Or just thinking about creating one?
You have been asking us advice on what machines to get or somebody sent you this link to help you.
We have been traveling with tools for twelve weeks, for over 19 000 km of winding roads, dirt roads, highways and express ways, in a very special context : this residency. We were a team of three. riding our 2011 Ford Econoline E-350 Xlt (extended version), with the “small” 5,4 litres engine. No sleeping in the van : we carried machines.
Our experience is based on our own project reality. Getting machines in and out of the van. Setting up pop-up labs.
What we learned
We came up with a minimal setup that can be used on the road (down here)
Unfortunately, we did not use all of the machines in the list. We talked and thought machines for the last three months still.
After removing the 3 last rows of passenger seats from the van, we loaded it up with “everything” we though we could need, and then we left because we were expected for our first visit. We decided very quickly to unload everything from the van to add a wooden floor and add a (removable) safety grid behind the back seat. We also found a very talented mechanic to add 2 head rests to this back seat which comes only without from the factory.
Machines, machines, oh theses machines we like to show and use and tell about…
Honorable mention : we had in the truck a Trotec Speedy 100 laser cutter. An amazing machine. We used it outside on the sidewalk by 34 degrees and it never once let us down. But two of us were needed to pull it in and out of the van, on a custom cart. On a hot afternoon, it’s a pretty sweaty business.
So most of the machines we recommend are small, made to be used and setup by only one person. They require minimal adjustments on the road. They should be easy to repair on the fly. Before to give you the list, here are some considerations for selecting equipment:
- Have all your consumables pre-cut to the appropriate size : 1cm less than the actual bed.
- Have no boxes of consumables that weight more than +-10 kilos (20-25 pounds)
- Try to have everything in solid and identified boxes
- Watch out for heat, our PC crashed quite often when exposed to the sun. Also, if it’s windy, 3D prints will fail so you will have to enclose the machine. Gazebo can be great, but dangerous or useless in case of windy days.
- Build custom road cases all of your machines. With a top. Best road cases will be multipurpose (transform in a table, 3D printer enclosure…)
- Securing equipment in a vehicle is paramount. Check local et national regulations about transporting equipment.
- Get advice before crossing the USA border. The US Custom and Border Protection offer information by telephone 1-877-CBP-5511 (877-227-5511). We did not go there for this
So here’s the list!
- Ultimaker 2GO
- Reprap Prusa MK2
- Small Form Factor CNC OtterMill Pro Advanced Pack
- Vinyl CutterRoland Stika SV-12
- Desktop Laser Cutter Rayjet 50W (and appropriate extractor)
- PFAFF Creative 2.0 Embroidery / Sewing machine combo
- Soldering stations, oscilloscope and multi-meters; This Hakko FX88D is well made
- Some arduinos, lilypads, sensors, actuators, wires and other electronic prototyping accessories.
Have fun and wonderful Fab Labs moments!