BY LEE COLONY
Deep in the heart of Gateway Technical College’s SC Johnson iMET Center lays a space open to anyone to use with the ability to make possible nearly any manufacturing idea they can conceive.
Gateway’s industrial Fab Lab, located on the first floor of the college’s Sturtevant facility, is a work space containing a number of computer-controlled tools which allow for the manufacture of a variety of items. This “maker space” provides a way for innovation and collaboration to flourish for a number of groups – from second-grade students to area quilting enthusiasts.
“What started out as a lab to assist programs at Gateway has become an open lab for everyone, including artists, inventors, hobbyists, even quilting groups. Area school districts use our lab. Basically, anyone who’s interested in making anything can use the lab,” says John Zehren, Gateway Fab Lab coordinator.
Students have designed three-dimensional items on computer-aided design programs and printed those items through materials in the lab, which produce actual 3D pieces. Entrepreneurs have made prototypes of items they wish to patent. Artists from the community have designed and made technology artwork. And those are a few of hundreds of examples.
The lab has 20 printers, representing two forms of 3D printing. Lab visitors can also use computer numeric control milling and routing machines, laser engravers, vinyl machines, a soldering station and computer-aided design programs. Zehren says as long as the lab is open with a technician on hand, anyone can drop in and use it.
If you have an idea you would like to work on, you can work on it. Don’t have an idea, but would like to try out a project? That’s fine, too – Zehren can help, he’s a wealth of ideas and knowledge. Cost is free for the first couple visits, but continuous users must pay a monthly fee. The college even holds middle school create and construct Fab Lab camps.
Gateway’s Fab Lab is part of a worldwide consortium of Fab Labs first developed at MIT as a way to spur innovation. Gateway’s is unique because it offers the possibility for the user to conceptualize and design an item, print a prototype and then have access to the flexible manufacturing lab where it can be created to scale.
For more: https://www.gtc.edu/business-workforce-solutions/fab-lab/industrial-design-fab-lab
Lee Colony is the communications specialist at Gateway Technical College.