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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fab Lab A Fabulous Gift Idea

I found Santa's workshop right here in southeast Kansas!  I need to say that I am torn on whether to share this opportunity with you or not.  I mean if you all are as excited about it as my son and I are, I could be waiting in line to do my projects, but I do like to share what our area has to offer.


Have you ever been to a Fab Lab

My youngest son got to visit the one at Independence Community College and came home so excited about it last week. After looking at the map, I had to check it out myself and a membership is now on my Christmas wish list.  (I really hope Santa reads this and gives the membership to our family a little early, so we can make some Christmas presents.)

Have you ever been looking through Pinterest thinking that would be a great project...if only I had the right equipment? 

A fab lab might just have everything you need to make some of the best Christmas gifts ever! Here are a few of the things I saw at our local fab lab. And if you don't live in southeast Kansas, don't worry there are 125 Fablabs around the world!

They have big equipment like a CNC router. For those of you that don't know what CNC means, basically it means that you can tell a computer what shape you want to cut out and it will do it all for you.

There is also a CNC plasma cutter that will cut metal into shapes that are programmed into it.  How cool is this?  Need a sign for your mailbox, gates, stalls, or a yardsign to let everyone know who your favorite team is?  I need to start a list with all of my ideas.  

Have you ever seen a project with vinyl letters or vinyl shapes and wish you had a fancy cutter that you could cut it out on? They have one and they have the vinyl that you can purchase to use as well.

If you don't have a computer at home or need help getting a file into the correct format for the machine you want to use, they have computer workstation setup for members to use.  They were very helpful and are working hard to make sure there are free online programs that you can use to design your projects at home and then bring them to the lab on a flash drive.  In the back, you can see 42 inch plotter that will print photographic quality images that I am super excited about.  Oh, the projects I have in mind and the savings from all of those large matted prints I wanted.

They have an abrasive blaster, which can be used to remove old paint and rust on small projects.  The lab managers are going to try to use it with the vinyl cutouts to etch glass.

The laser etching machine was just mesmerizing for my boys. I was shown this plate that had the ICC pirate mascot etched onto it from a simple PDF file.  It can etch any flat surface, but a curve or angle will not work.

We also watched as members of the Fab Lab made ornament after ornament from a PDF file as well. I can see so many fun things we could do with this.  That is simply a slice of wood with the design etched on it.  I couldn't sleep the other morning just dreaming of things to do with this machine!
I don't know that all Fab Labs have a kiln, but ours does thanks to a generous donation from a community member. Now I can try that Pinterest project in which I needed a kiln.
I am NOT going to act like I understand the electronic equipment on this workstation, but I bet I have some techie friends that would love to try it out.

The items I had the most hard time wrapping my head around are the 3D printers and 3D scanner. As we walked in the door, my boys were asked to help load the printer to print a project for a biology student. They were more than happy to jump right in and see how things really work!

 I had heard about the Fab Lab after one of my friends shared that her niece had a hand made for her. This young girl was born without fingers and the hand made at the Fab Lab allows her to grip things she never has been able to before. I knew about the Fab Lab, but I had no idea as a family we could join as members and be able to use the equipment.

There are several options for membership depending on whether you want to be able to reserve a machine when you get there or not. They do ask you to sign a membership application and they accept checks and credit cards for payment of your membership.

Year long individual memberships range in price from $100 to $225.  A family membership is $180 and includes 2 adults and up to 5 named children living at home (Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult member).  An individual membership allows you to use the lab machinery at will outside of Premium Member reservations up to one hour per machine per session. The premium membership allows you to be able to reserve the use of lab machinery up to 3 hours per machine per day.

I think a membership to a Fab Lab would make one of the most awesome Christmas gifts for a family.  It introduces kids to technology that will probably be commonplace by the time they graduate from high school and encourages them to really "Imagine, Design, and Create."

The boys and I are working on making a list of the projects we need to make.  If you want to know more about the Fab Lab ICC, I encourage you to follow them on Facebook.

 What else would you like to know about the Fab Lab?  Have you ever been to one yourself?  What should be my first project? 

-A Kansas Farm Mom

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