After the workshop last week Friday on experimenting with Lego Mindstorms and Arduino open source hardware, I returned to the ProtoSpace FabLab in Utrecht today. This time around it was all about learning to work with the machines the FabLab is equipped with: a laser cutter, a vinyl cutter, a milling machine and a full colour 3D printer. 

The impressive bit of FabLab is not the fact that the type of machines it offers exist. The impressive part is that you can get these machines to do your bidding by feeding it things as simple as PDF files. You create your model or drawing and then basically hit the print button, select ‘laser cutter’ instead of your regular ink jet printer, and watch the machine get to work.

We played with the 3D full colour printer, which is very impressive.
In the 5 minute video below I documented the whole process. From the example object, to making 7 smaller copies of it. 3D printing is time consuming, but you can do amazing things with it.

Siert and I created a card board casing for Arduino boards to prevent it from short-circuiting because of the surface it is lying on. For the first version I simply drew a first sketch in Neooffice (the Mac version of Open Office), in a text document. I then imported that text document as PDF into Corel Draw on one of the PCs in the FabLab and hit the print button. The lasercutter cut a piece of card board according to my sketch, which assembled resulted in the first version of our Arduino holder.

Card board housing for Arduino v1.0
Version 1.0 of Arduino board holder

Then Sierts education as an engineer kicked in and he adapted the design into version 2.0. Again hitting Print resulted in a handful of pieces of cardboard coming out of the lasercutter that fitted snugly together. Who would have guessed I could be so pleased with a few bits of card board?

Card board housing for Arduino v2.0
Version 2.0 of the Arduino holder

The video below shows another run with the laser cutter for a different item (part of a 3D game board)

Last week as well as today I made a point of showing the other participants how easy it is to share pictures and video of what you are doing while you are doing it. To help lower the threshold for them to start sharing their FabLab work as well.

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