Fab City

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Decentralized digital production for urban value creation

Can there be a city where you can make (almost) everything yourself?

As part of the interdisciplinary dtec.bw research project Fab City, a new type of urban value creation is being established in the Hamburg metropolitan region by means of decentralized and open production workshops (so-called Open Labs). Open Labs are technology laboratories with open-source and digital manufacturing machines (e.g., 3D printers, CNC milling machines) that are freely and publicly accessible to private individuals, companies, and start-ups, among others, who are interested. The use of open source technologies (so-called open source hardware) with product data available online for local manufacturing offers the great advantage that users of a product have the right and the possibility to modify, build and sell it as they wish.

The alienation of people from value-adding activities and their dependence on gainful employment as a result of specialization, centralization, and mass production cause heteronomous and reduced social participation in the shaping of socio-economic and technological development processes. The result is a low individual awareness of the ecological effects of mass production, a corresponding consumer mentality, and an increasing susceptibility to ecological, economic, and social crises.

Hamburg becomes a Fab City

The use of open source hardware promotes innovation, supports urban production, and independence from global supply chains, and encourages the development of technological education, thereby reducing the current trend of alienating people from value-creating activities. On the other hand, the embedding of local activities into the global infrastructure of the international Fab City network is ensured and in this way, the global exchange of knowledge regarding process, machine, and product development is implemented.

The production technologies developed within the Fab City project are to be accessible worldwide through open project documentation, enable maximum scaling and dissemination through self-replication and modular construction, and require only minimal costs through the Appropriate Design approach. Knowledge transfer is to take place in the form of project-based (build) workshops in the Fab Labs or Open Labs. Scaling is ensured by the train-the-trainer principle and open documentation, whereby a holistic range of topics from the product idea to the business model is to be mapped.

The related issues are the subject of various research fields, such as engineering, economics, law, social and educational sciences, logistics and blockchain technology, and urban planning. In the project, an interdisciplinary research team will therefore investigate new theoretical foundations of decentralized digital and networked urban value creation. The insights derived from this will offer society the possibility of global product development and local manufacturing combined with new, individualized, and sustainable innovation, production, and education formats in the future. The project will be implemented in collaboration with local stakeholders and research partners in Hamburg (Fab City Hamburg).

Fab City in the state press conference

Dr.-Ing. Tobias Redlich presented the Fab City project at the Hamburg State Press Conference on 19.01.2021 together with Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jens Wulfsberg and the University President Prof. Dr. rer. pol. Klaus Beckmann.

Fab City at the EMO Hannover

In the online webinar “Open Source Machine Tools: The road to Production Sovereignty and Circular Economy” of the series “Let’s talk Science”, Dr.-Ing. Tobias Redlich gives insights into the ongoing research projects “Fab City” and “INTERFACER” in the context of the Fab City approach.

Facts and figures

Project title: Fab City – Decentralized digital production for urban value creation
Duration: 2021 – 2024
Funded by:

Related links:

Laboratory of Production Engineering at the Helmut-Schmidt-University
OpenLab an der Helmut-Schmidt-Universität
Verein Fab City Hamburg e.V.

Selected Publications

Lennart Hildebrandt, Manuel Moritz, Benedikt Seidel, Tobias Redlich, and Jens P. Wulfsberg: Urbane Mikrofabriken für die hybride Produktion in ZWF Zeitschrift für wirtschaftlichen Fabrikbetrieb 2020: Vol. 115, No. 4, pp. 191-195. https://www.degruyter.com/journal/key/zwf/115/4/html

Redlich, T.; Moritz, M. und Wulfsberg. J.P. (Herausgeber): Co-Creation – Reshaping Business and Society in the Era of Bottom-up Economics, Springer, Berlin 2019. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-97788-1

Are you interested in an exchange on the concept of the Fab City, commons-based peer production or related topics? Then please feel free to contact us.


Dr.-Ing. Tobias Redlich