Fabrication-as-a-Service: A Web-Based Solution for STEM Education Using Internet of Things
This publication appears in: IEEE Internet of Things Journal
Authors: G. Cornetta, A. Touhafi, M. Amine Togou and G. Muntean
Publication Date: Feb. 2020
Recently, fabrication laboratories (Fab Labs) have been shown to have a great impact on learners' academic and personal progress. As a result, an increasing effort is being put to integrate Fab Labs into schools' curricula. Yet, owing to the high cost of setting up and maintaining Fab Labs as well as the lack of sufficient funding for most schools and universities, only a limited number of institutions can afford them. In this article, we propose a new concept called Fabrication-as-a-Service (FaaS) that uses Internet of Things to democratize access to Fab Labs via enabling a wide learning community to remotely access these computer-controlled tools and equipment over the Internet. It employs a two-tier architecture consisting of a hub, deployed in the cloud, and a network of distributed Fab Labs. Each Fab Lab interacts with the hub and other digital labs via a Fab Lab Gateway. This is to support scalability and high availability of fabrication services as well as ensure the system's security. FaaS also adopts an innovative master-slave approach that uses inexpensive external hardware to monitor and control the activity of expensive fabrication equipment. This article also describes the FaaS deployment in the context of the European Union Horizon 2020 NEWTON project. Multiple scenarios have been deployed to fully illustrate the benefits of the FaaS architecture and to assess the performance of its communication protocol stack.