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Fab Lab Manchester

Unleash your creative genius in this workshop for the people

Published on April 7th 2010.

Fab Lab Manchester

Imagination is the key to invention, but it takes more than an idea to bring a new creation to life.

“Manchester led the first industrial revolution and now it is at the centre of a new industrial revolution where anyone can make anything, anywhere using digital manufacturing.”

The Chips building in New Islington is now home to the UK’s first Fab Lab – a space for aspiring children and adults to make ideas a reality.

The lab is the brain-child of professor Neil Gershenfeld. He’s the director of the Center for Bits and Atoms at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US. In other words, he’s a total brain.

He said: “Fab Labs give people the tools they need to create technology, to be creative and make the stuff that they can’t buy in the shops. Manchester led the first industrial revolution and now it is at the centre of a new industrial revolution where anyone can make anything, anywhere using digital manufacturing.”

Starting out in inner-city Boston, Fab Labs have exploded around the world. From urban areas, to villages in Africa, the nutty professor has even connected his labs via a global video link network, enabling ideas, designs and knowledge to be shared across cultures and borders. Manchester is now part of the Fab Lab fam.

So what have we managed to invent so far? On the launch day alone inventions on show included: The ‘Crackit Bat’ – a cross between a cricket bat and a tennis racquet created by Warrington Wolves Rugby League player Matt King, and ‘Sky Baby’ – a folding travel carry cot created by husband and wife team Rachel and Nico Arventis. There were also model wind turbines, a baby bottle with an inbuilt colour changing temperature gauge, a re-heating and cooling plate, and probably the best of them all – a toothbrush with an inbuilt MP3 player made by an 11-year-old.

All of the inventions were made using the range of hi-tech equipment at Fab Lab Manchester. Fab Labbers can use advanced digital and manufacturing technology to make products out of wood, acrylic, composite moulds, silicon, cardboard, sheet aluminium, plastics, copper foil and vinyl. There are facilities for waxing, chemical moulding, milling and routing, laser cutting, electronics, textiles, embroidery, vinyl cutting and 3D scanning and printing.

But if you thought those local inventions were impressive, we’ve got plenty to aspire to when it comes to Fab Labs worldwide. Shepherds in Norway have used their Fab Lab to create mobile phones to track sheep. In Afghanistan Fab Labbers are creating a local telecoms infrastructure and prosthetic limbs, while in South Africa a government and business backed project is creating simple internet connected computers that hook up to televisions and cost just ten dollars each. Luckily, Fab Lab Manchester will be able to connect, problem solve and brainstorm ideas with Fab Labs as far afield as Ghana and Afghanistan via the internet and real time video link.

The project is being supported by the Manchester Innovation Investment Fund, comprising of The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), the Northwest Development Agency (NWDA), Manchester City Council, Manchester: Knowledge Capital, and the Commission for the New Economy.

Fab Labs give everyone, from young children through to entrepreneurs and businesses, the capability to bring their ideas and inventions to life. It’s free to non-commercial users. Businesses and inventors can opt to protect their product development ideas by paying to use the service.

Fab Lab is open for the general public to drop in, get stuck in and have a go on Fridays and Saturdays. There are plenty of experienced lab technicians on hand to show you how to use the machinery and develop your ideas. For more information on Fab Lab Manchester and how to get involved, please visit www.fablabmanchester.org

Fab Lab
2 Lampwick Lane
New Islington
M4 6BU

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