Make Something with us in the Fab Lab
Advantages of the Digital Fabrication Laboratory (Fab Lab) Equipment
By Eminah Quintyne
The equipment in the Fab Lab allows anyone to bring product ideas to life. Georgia Southern’s Fab Lab is a part of the Business Innovation Group and exists as a maker-space for aspiring entrepreneurs, business owners, the community, GS Faculty and staff, and students seeking to prototype or be creative with school or personal projects.
Trained student staff in the Fab Lab provide guidance to take designs from 3D modeling software and print them on one of several 3D printers. Staff play an integral role in optimizing client outcomes by using their knowledge base to customize how they approach each project.
Inventors and tinkerers are encouraged to use the resources of the Fab Lab to prototype and bring their ideas to life. In general, a design (STL) file is taken from a version of 3D modeling software, loaded into a software program called GrabCad Print, and modified to best suit the object being printed. Orientation is critical to the process of modifying settings for users to get what they want. Fab Lab staff are experts at the process of determining the best orientation and printing.
The cost to print is directly associated with the amount of materials used and labor. Support material generates at the same time a 3D object is printed and provides a sustainable infrastructure to build a 3D design in the machine. You can create anything from a keychain, shoes, machine parts, to a showerhead and more among the Fab Lab’s 3D printer options. Each printer creates varied types and sizes of designs.
Fab Lab technicians can help point you in the right direction depending on the size of your design and the material you prefer. Every printer uses a thermoplastic polymer material called Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) which is used to create an assortment of objects in the color of your choice. The Prusa i3 is an open-faced 3D printer. Use is encouraged by experienced users of 3D printing because the Prusa is a more self-directed machine. The Prusa will print on a range of materials like polypropylene, polylactic acid (PLA), and ABS. Because the Prusa reads designs through an SD card, has its own printing software, and controls the actual bed, it allows you to do more hands-on things while printing.
“We don’t design things as much here, people come in with an STL file, which is the standard format for 3D printing, and we print it. You can create anything in a 3D printer. The Prusa is good for simple models with a basic design, like toys or assembly parts. It is not practical for mass production,” said Stephan Kenyon, a graduate assistant with a B.S in Mechanical Engineering.
Though the Fab Lab team does not aggressively practice design, Solidworks is a software often used for 3D design and if someone has an idea in their head and wants to get it in physical form, the Fab Lab team is happy to teach you how to design it and print it for you.
“Any project where someone needs a visual tool to demonstrate, you can 3D print. This is a great place for personal projects and for students,” said Kenyon. The uPrint is popular because it prints quickly and prints objects of average size. The Fortus has a larger print bed, therefore it prints larger 3D models.
“It is good for students to come in here and learn how to use the 3D printers and laser cutters because it is a great skill and is something technical students can put on their résumé,” said Babatunde Saliu, Fab Lab student worker.
The Fab Lab’s laser printer allows users to take graphic design and create one dimensional or 3D laser-printed designs. Designs are taken from Adobe Illustrator or pdf files and sent to a specific destination for them to be laser-printed.
“The magic to using the laser printer is slow speed and high power,” said graphic design major and student intern Rachel Brown.
There are several manual controls to modify the dimensions, input the thickness of material and depth of the laser cut. Fab Lab staff help users to understand and manage these controls. Rachel designed a candle holder and a special requested wedding cake display for BIG incubator client, Ours the Company. The laser printer can cut plexiglass, tile, cardboard, leather, stones, acrylic and other materials.
The Fab Lab also has a wood workshop consisting of a CNC router, saws, sanders, and other standard workshop equipment.
The Fab Lab offers business, individual, family and education memberships and ad-hoc offerings. Each membership is associated with a varied monthly fee and a mandatory $30 safety course. Members are also trained on how to properly operate whatever equipment they are wanting to use. Members are granted 20 hours per month to print in the Fab Lab. Beyond 20 hours there is an associated hourly fee. Members are encouraged to bring their own material for the laser, CNC, and wood workshop, but must pay for materials used on the 3D printers. For more information contact BIG at 912-478-0872.
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