NEXTFAB—a makerspace, just OFF MARKET
NextFab opened its Wilmington location on June 14 … and in two short months, this makerspace just off Market has become a destination for inventors, artists, craftsmen and designers from Wilmington and beyond. But what have those makers been up to inside the walls of NextFab? We took a tour of the facility with Laate Olukotun (NextFab director of marketing) and Kate Brown (Wilmington location manager), and discovered four projects already in the works…
Inside the 3D printing room:
Mouthpieces for breath-controlled technology.
Kate: “We have a flexible filament, so you can make all sorts of things. Someone has been working on a product development project for phone cases. There's another project that we just did with a company called LipSync, where our members printed these components that will be used to control a computer using a person’s breathing. This is specifically for people who are quadriplegic and paraplegic. The 3D printers can create really functional, life-changing pieces for some people.”
Laate: “These machines cost thousands of dollars and our members get to use them for free. And the filament is free. At our other location, typically, a one-inch-by-one-inch cube of material will cost you up to $25.”
Kate: “We’ve got an awesome vendor from just outside of Newark who has a national distribution warehouse for filament. And he has exotic filaments. There’s one that's actually intended to mimic wood, so you can print something with a natural appearance. And there’s one with glitter in it.”
Inside the laser cutting shop: Sculpted pieces of art.
Kate: “Something that is really cool is seeing members find ways to use their hand-drawn artwork in conjunction with the technology. In the Adobe Illustrator class that we teach, we show people how to trace their hand-drawn images, whether it’s kids’ artwork or a cool design of their own. You'll get a vector image, and then you can cut out or etch your kids artwork into whatever it may be.”
Laate: “Cutting is really fast. Etching takes quite awhile, but a small piece would get cut in 30 seconds.”
Kate: “There's a local artist, a sculptor, who uses plywood as his medium. He takes advantage of the technology to quickly reproduce some of his detailed pieces. He's been able to come in with one or two software courses, and the hands-on training on the machine, and make one project in one night where it used to take him about a month.”
Inside the electronics shop: An electric guitar.
Kate: “Isn't this amazing? It's a hollow body guitar, and all of the electronic components were assembled here.”
Laate: “The pickup was actually created on our lathe, to do the wound copper wire.”
Kate: “That’s a pretty cool use of the lathe. He used wood from a tree that came down on his parents’ property and designed it by hand, but gave the 3D contour to it here. He used the laser cutter to get markings and the locations for the frets. He’s actually fairly new to 3D modeling, but he 3D-printed the insets here.”
Inside the wood shop: A pair of lips.
“We have a lot of members who have access to woodworking equipment, maybe at home, but come in specifically to have access to a machine like this ShopBot. You can make some pretty amazing 2D and 3D pieces for signage or custom logos that would be hard to create in any other way.”
“We had somebody here over the weekend who had been hired by a woman in Los Angeles to create 3D lips, to be covered with zebra print and cheetah print, with rhinestones and all sorts of things that will be sewn onto a leather jacket. He started by 3D printing the lips to show her an example of size and scale, and then he machined it out of fiberboard on the ShopBot, and the quality on the ShopBot was just as good as the 3D printing. He was very happy with being able to quickly reproduce them. And we have to see this thing when it's done.”