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Starting your own makerspace

So, you’ve decided you want to open a makerspace? Great! Thirteen years ago, Karim and I started our first makerspace, which has now grown to more than 2000 members and branched into two other cities!

Me, giving an introductory course at our lab in Vienna

Over the years, we made a lot of mistakes – but also learned a few things. In this article I’ll try to share what we know to help you kickstart your makerspace, fab lab or hackerspace.

First, define your makerspace concept and business model

Before you begin excitedly searching for a new location or machines to buy, let’s take a step back and make sure you have the basics straight:

  1. Whom are you building this makerspace for?

    This is the most important question! What audience will you cater to? Are you opening a makerspace for students? For hobbyists? For professionals? Entrepreneurs? All of the above?

    Once you know the answer: find a few of them, and straight-up ask them! What are their needs and pains? Listen to what they have to say and then ask yourself: how can your makerspace match these needs? It’s never too early to start talking to your customers.

  2. What’s your business model?

    Do you want to be a for-profit or a non-profit? How are you planning to raise money? There might be funds and public loans you can apply for.

    How will you get recurring revenue to keep the lights on? Will you charge a flat membership fee, charge for machine usage, add a booking fee? Will you sell materials? How will your users pay you? Cash? Is a tip jar enough or do you need to offer card payments? How will you handle billing?

    Whatever you decide on, Makerspace management tools like Fabman can handle many of these aspects and help you bring your business model to life.

Don’t repeat mistakes: Connect with other makerspace owners!

Go out and take a look at what’s already there. Visit a few makerspaces and get the full tour. Have a chat with their lab managers and find out how they do things. The makerspace community is a tight-knit bunch, and usually happy to share a few “trade secrets”. Plus, it helps to compare notes, as you may potentially end up cooperating with them or complementing each other’s’ offerings. In this ecosystem, a collaborative network is far more common than stiff competition.

Opening of our third lab in Berlin

Location, location, location

If you feel you’ve got a solid concept for how your makerspace will work, let’s think about where! A few considerations you should keep in mind:

Teamwork makes the makerspace dream work

You’ll probably start to set up your makerspace with a few colleagues or friends. However, once your space grows, you’ll want to think about expanding that team.

One of the key roles you’ll need to fill is the lab manager – the on-site superhero. He or she is the one ensuring every machine is working, every member is satisfied, and in general, nothing is burning to the ground – which can happen. 😭 Your lab manager needs to know more about the makerspace than anyone else. They need to be someone with technical know-how and social skills. Someone with design chops, creativity, and a healthy sense of responsibility. Easy, right?

Well, at least Fabman can help you manage a huge community with just a tiny team, so you’ll only have to find one or two superheroes, not five. For instance, Happylab in Vienna keeps 1700 members happy with one lab manager. How? By letting Fabman handle membership management, access control, member training, maintenance, billing, and invoicing.

Important: Don’t forget to consider gender balance when expanding your team. Not only is this crucial for society but also for reaching a wider audience and creating a diverse, healthy community.

And remember: you can source a lot of help from your community. Many people are more than willing to volunteer their time for a cause they’re passionate about. This probably won’t replace a full-time lab manager but it can be a great help for workshops, events, and training courses.

Time for some inventory

It’s time to think about machines! Laser cutters, 3D printers, and CNC mills are the workhorses of many makerspaces. But it all depends on your target audience. Always remember what the Makerspace Playbook says:

Equipment lists are as individual as the space and its members.

This topic is complex enough to warrant its own article. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to get notified when it’s available.

Take your makerspace to the next level

What makes great makerspaces great is not just their machines and location, but the community they’ve built. Don’t forget that as you set out to create your own. There’s no easy step-by-step guide to building communities, but some useful ideas might be:

Don’t worry if you still have lots of open questions or feel a little overwhelmed! Use the resources at your disposal, talk to people who’ve been there, and don’t be afraid to go your own path.

Looking forward to hearing from your successful makerspace in the not-too-distant future. Got questions or feedback? Leave us a comment below!

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New in Fabman: Member filters, group memberships, one machine per member

Here’s what we’ve added to Fabman since the last announcement:

New filters for the member list

We’ve added a few additional options to filter your member list. You can now filter by permissions (admin, owner, or normal member) and whether they have any active packages:

Member billing page

Paying for other members

There’s also a new option when adding or editing members: Who’s paying for that member? With this you can set up family packages or company accounts, where one member pays for others.

Member payment options

This connection will be shown both on member’s detail page as well as their Charges & invoices page.

Member detail page for members who doesn’t pay themselves

All charges caused by these members (like usage fees or recurring package fees) will be created for the paying member. But you’ll always see where these charges are coming from:

Charges created for other members

Prevent members from using certain machines in parallel

You can enable a new restriction on bridges to prevent one person from using multiple machines at the same time. This is really useful if you want to prevent one member from…

Here’s how it works: Enable the new bridge option Exclusive equipment for every equipment that you want to restrict:

Exclusive equipment option

Every member can only use one exclusive equipment at any time. If they try to switch on another exclusive equipment while the first one is still running, they will be denied.

But they can still run all other machines in parallel. So they can still use the laser cutter while the 3D printer labors on their 16 hour print job.

Other changes

As always, we’ve also released several other improvements and fixes:


Give these improvements a try and let us know what you think! What do you like? What’s missing?

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New in Fabman: Self-service payments, big billing overhaul & SCA support

Over the past weeks we invested a lot of time into improving billing and payments in Fabman. Here’s a quick look at some of the features we’ve just launched.

Members: pay invoices & update payment method

From now on, members can pay their invoices directly from the member portal:

Member billing page

They can also update their saved payment method – so they don’t have to bother you every time their credit card expires.

All you need to do is connect your space to a Stripe account and invite your members to your member portal.

Retrying failed payments and Strong Customer Authentication

If a payment cannot be completed for any reason, you can now send the member a link to a payment page where they can retry the payment with their current payment method (or enter a different one):

A pending payment Payment page for members

Why all this effort? Starting September 14, there’s a new set of reasons for payments to require your members’ attention: Due to the EU’s new Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) requirements, banks may reject even authenticated, recurring payments from time to time. If that happens, users need to explicitly confirm the transaction using techniques like 3D Secure (also known by brand names like Visa Secure, Mastercard Secure Code, or Identity Check). These SCA requirements are also the reason why many European banks have forced users to switch from SMS TAN to other authentication schemes in recent months.

But we’ve got you covered! If a transaction is rejected, simply click the “Send email” button or copy & paste the payment link and they can confirm the transaction within a few seconds. This works regardless of whether you’ve set up your member portal or not. You don’t need to invite your members to the member portal. They simply have to click the link to confirm the payment.

This process is also useful if their credit card expired or has insufficient funds. Just send them a link so they can update their payment method and retry the payment.

Improved invoice list and a new payment list

In order for you to have a better overview over your invoices and payments, we’ve updated the invoice list, making it easier to see unpaid, overdue and dunned invoices:

Improved invoice list

We’ve also added a list of all payments with various filters, to help you keep track of your payments:

New payment list

UI improvements

We’ve taken this opportunity to re-think some of our UI design decisions. We’ve cleaned up all our list views and tables and improved several detail views. No big redesign, but little improvements here and there.

Some examples:

Other changes

As always, we’ve released several other improvements and fixes. Here are the most important ones, if you’re curious:


Give these improvements a try and let us know what you think! What do you like? What’s missing?

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New in Fabman: Billing overview for members, improved member landing page, and more

We’ve just released two major improvements for the member portal. Here’s a quick overview of what’s changed.

Invoices & charges

Members can now see & print their invoices and check recent charges. If they are on a prepaid plan, they can also see their current credit balance.

Member billing page

Head over to your account settings and enable “Billing for members” to add this new section to your member portal:

Enable member billing in your account settings (It’s enabled by default for new Fabman accounts.)

Contact info, opening hours and holidays

The member landing page got a new info box that shows the contact details, opening hours, and upcoming holidays for your space. The new member portal overview page

Have you noticed another detail in the picture above? You can now add custom text, including links and text formatting, to your member portal. It’s great for linking to your community wiki, forums, or material shop. Or use it to remind members of news or changes in your lab.

How? Go to your space’s general settings and experiment with the “additional info for members” section.

Other changes

As always, we’ve released several other improvements and fixes. Here are the most important ones, if you’re curious:


Give these improvements a try and let us know what you think! What do you like? What’s missing?

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Switching on equipment with your phone is now live! (and more…)

We’ve just released our cardless bridges feature – allowing members to switch on equipment using their smartphone.

Bridge with a QR code for switching it on with your phone

Enabling cardless bridges

This feature is automatically enabled for all new accounts. If you have an existing account, you can enable it in your account settings:

  1. Sign in to your Fabman account.
  2. Select “Configure” and then “Your account” from the main menu. Then click “Edit” to edit your account settings.
  3. Scroll down to “Additional features” and make sure that the option “Cardless bridges” is checked.

Wanna know more? Here’s a full description of prerequisites and how it works for members. There’s also an article on how Fabman helps you detect account sharing.

Revamped member profile

We’ve taken the opportunity to redesign the member profile page in the member portal. Apart from looking better, it now includes information about the member’s active packages and their completed training courses.

Other changes


Give these improvements a try and let us know what you think! What do you like? What’s missing?

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