While each Fab Lab is different, they have similar components. If you are designing a Fab Lab, consider implementing these elements:
- Design Tools – From computers, design software and CAD tools, design is an important element. Many schools we talked with offered File Assistance. All 3D file formats are prone to errors in geometry. Successful Fab Labs will supply file review and assistance for students designing .STL files, helping students troubleshoot designs before production.
- 3D Printers – 3D printers, also known as 3D rapid-prototypers, are capable of taking digital geometry in the form of a stereolithographic file (.STL) and producing small models. 3D printers come in a variety of price points, and print in a variety of materials. Check out options from 3D Systems here.
- 3D Scanners – 3D laser scanning, the process of converting physical objects into precise digital models, enables you to quickly and accurately capture your object’s shape and geometries. This process supplies you with a complete digital representation of your part to be used for reverse engineering, quality inspection or at any point of a typical manufacturing cycle. 3D Scanners are available in several price points, from Afinia and 3D Systems.
- Laser Engravers – Laser cutting and engraving is a very versatile process used to cut or engrave numerous materials including wood, leather, acrylic, anodized aluminum, Formica, and even mother of pearl. It can also be used engrave and mark some metals, marble, and stone to create a variety of projects. The laser cutter excels even with fine, intricate work. Universal Laser Systems can customize lasers based on your need.
- CNC Routers and CNC Plasma Cutters– CNC equipment is designed to route, carve, drill, and engrave in wood, plastic, foam, aluminum and other materials for a wide range of applications. Plasma Cutters are extremely useful for cutting sheet metal in curved or angled shapes. Cost-effective CNC Routers are available from Techno CNC Systems, EZ Router, and FANUC.
Fab Labs can complement in-class instruction, and provide a “lab” environment for coursework. We want to hear from you – are you considering adding a Fab Lab? What tools are you looking for to complete (or begin) your Fab Lab design?