Fab Lab trip - 16th November 2013
8 of us took a trip to Fab Lab in Manchester, on Saturday 16th November, primarily to see their 3D printer. Fab Labs – digital fabrication laboratories – were set up to inspire people and entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into new products and prototypes by giving them access to a range of advanced digital manufacturing technology. The idea originated at MIT but Fab Labs have now spread throughout the world.
The Manchester Fab Lab is housed in the Chips building about a kilometre NW of Piccadilly station, as the crow flies. However, for those on foot, it's a 15 minute rather pleasant meander along the Ashton Canal to get there. When we first arrived the building looked deserted but eventually we found our way to what turned out to be the back door and were welcomed and shown round by one of the volunteers who staff the place. The premises are comprised of one large L-shaped room with various bits of kit to play with and a separate room housing a Shopbot CNC router (a large computer controlled shaping machine for wood etc).
Desktop laser cutter
We spent most of the time in the main room watching people using the equipment. First off, there was this young girl there with her Dad. They were making an advent calendar out of wood using the desktop laser cutter.
The 3D printers
Then we watched as the Desktop 3D printer - photo 1 - was used. The spool of plastic extruder is shown on photo 2 - this is the plastic that is gradually built up into the shape required. The little figure is shown being made in photo 3 and the completed figure is shown being divested of its wispy bits in photo 4. Photo 5 shows the man who made it for us. He was interested in helping us if we decided to start up a Fab Lab in Buxton - anyone?
There was a fridge sized 3D printer as well which is capable of much more - we saw tools and castors that had been made by this machine - but it wasn't available when we were there.
The Fab Lab is a community resource for everyone. You can book to use the machines or go round on public access days - generally Friday or Saturday as we did. Well worth a visit.