Early in 2013, Engine, a multi-purpose exhibition/flex space in Biddeford, Maine, partnered with Maine FabLab, founded by Sarah Boisvert in 2013, to open the first MIT-style FabLab in southern Maine in Engine’s current exhibition/flex space in Spring 2013. A website will be coming soon.
WHAT IS A FABLAB?
A FabLab is a place where anyone can go to make “almost” anything! It’s a fabrication laboratory with digital tools, but more importantly, an open-access, shared, safe learning environment that embraces the idea of failing better.
Not long ago, whenever an inventor had an idea, they had to develop it either for the big corporations where they worked or in their basement or garage.
Times have changed, and we’re seeing huge growth of new spaces where inventors and innovators can go to prototype new ideas using high tech tools, such as 3D printers and laser machining workstations, while getting expert help in the design and production process. Products today are far more complex, the tools more expensive, and collaborations are necessary to aid results. Massachussetts’s Institute of Technology (MIT) – a hotbed of innovation – is home to just such an environment, the FabLab.
Founder Neil Gershenfeld felt that anyone could make almost anything in a FabLab. And that is coming true around the world. In diverse industries, inventors have created customized hand brace orthotics,implantable joints, ornate bricks for construction, parts for NASA satellites, housing for consumer electronics, iPad & iPhone cases and holders, as well as artistic creations such as sculpture, jewelry, and toys.
But the real power is in individuals who just want to see an idea become reality. And those are often the ideas that change the world.
HOW CAN THIS WORK?
First, technology has advanced to a place where equipment is sophisticated enough to be used by individuals. Some require training, but many are less complicated than the remote control for your TV. 20 years ago it took a PhD in laser physics to run a laser micromachining workstation, or to turn out some models using 3D Printing. Now those technologies are plug-and-play.
Secondly, communications and computers went from analog to digital, resulting in PCs and the Internet, and now the digitization of fabrication is leading to personal fabricators that will allow anyone to make almost anything, using simple CAD files. And lastly, computers and smart phones are now ubiquitous, so everyone, from kids to seniors, has the digital skills required for CAD drawings and controls.
Our beta FabLab will include:
- High precision 3D Printer
- CO2 laser cutter & marker
- UV laser micro-machining workstation
- CNC & micro-CNC machine tools
- 3-D plotter & scanner
- Design & fabrication software
Technicians, operators and senior designers will be on staff to help inventors who come in develop their prototypes. Fees will be paid for level and length of design support, amount of materials used, etc. but it will be open access.
Maine FabLab will be open-source, with free access for Maine students from kindergarten through PhD. MFL will offer workshops and classes, as well as foster cross-pollination of ideas and capabilities. Furthermore, inventors, entrepreneurs, makers, students, teachers, professors, artists, designers and hackers will be able to share know-how and skills, software and programming, as well as ideas and concepts, if they so choose.
FABLABS AROUND THE WORLD
Other FabLab style rapid prototyping facilities and maker spaces in the world have:
- Fostered innovation across industries
- Helped spin-off start up companies
- Generated new ideas & products for existing companies
- Created production work for the machine tool, medical device, biotech, consumer products, and microelectronics industries to name a few
- Created jobs on the operator & technician level as well as the senior designer level at the FabLab
In addition, the community outreach activities:
- Give college & university faculty & staff access to new technologies & advanced equipment
- Present opportunities for college students to explore ideas beyond the classroom & possible work/study opportunities
- Teach our young people to make things using their hands and their imaginations, as well as their brains
- Increase interest in STEM [ScienceTechnologyEngineeringMath] among school children
- Afford the opportunity to collaborate with other FabLabs in the world, including the MIT facility in Cambridge MA
BETA TESTERS AND TEACHERS
We are looking for BetaTesters to help test our beta Maine FabLab. If you’re interested, please email Engine Project Coordinator.
We are also looking for teachers. Please send your CV, a one-page letter of inquiry including your area of interest and possible workshop ideas to Engine Project Coordinator.