Fab labs are small scale workshops offering digital fabrication technologies often used in rapid prototyping. The Fab Lab at the Time Center at the Community College of Baltimore County is a part of a network of global fab labs, first conceived at MIT. While in recent history the technologies used in these labs have had little impact on manufacturing, a wave of industry leaders have recently adopted some of the practices used there, such as 3D printing, as a means by which to increase efficiently and cut costs. Rapid prototyping is fast becoming the industry standard. As the tools used increase in speed, accuracy , and capacity, rapid manufacturing is making a case as viable methodology as well.
On April 27th manufacturers will gather at the NEXTgen-M Conference being held in Timonium, Maryland to learn about the industry changing technologies that are shaping the next generation of manufacturing. We believe that this is one of the most important conversations happening and hope that you will join us in helping to ensure that America, not only stays competitive in the 21st Century, but reclaims its position as the most innovative and productive manufacturing base in the world.
“Small to mid-size companies no longer need to make heavy investments in prototyping equipment. That whole process has been transformed by personal fabrication technologies. Artists, entrepreneurs, and inventors can turn ideas into products like never before.” -Doug Kendzierski, Chair- Department of Applied Technology, CCBC
The MIT Fab Labs have had a profound impact on communities all over the world. Originally started as a collaboration between Grassroots Invention Group and the Center For Bits and Atoms, the program seeks to explore how the content of information relates to its physical representation. The CCBC fab lab allows visitors to build physical and virtual prototypes. The software onsite inlcudeds Solidworks, GeoMagic, Adobe, ZBrush and the collection of hardware includes an Epilog laser cutter, UPrint 3d printer, a ShopBot, a rapid mill, and a vinyl printer.
“This fab lab is solving the problem of how do we begin to engage with the future of manufacturing in Maryland? This is a really great example of how that can happen.” -Mike Galiazzo, President of the Regional Manufacturing Institue
Objects laser etched, 3d printed, and rapidly milled at the CCBC Fab Lab
Objects 3d printed at the CCBC Fab Lab
The fab lab at CCBC, like others around the world, is open to the public and is intended to serve as a community resource. Safety training is required to use the equipment as well as a fee to cover the cost of materials. But, at the core of the fab lab concept is the creation of a venue that any individuals come to and explore their own ideas.
“A small population of students that attend the college come here but, believe it or not, more designers from outside the college use this facility. We have a lot of design students from other universities coming to use this lab as well as some middle and high school students. It varies but, the majority of users are designers and entrepreneurs who come here to turn their ideas into reality.” -Mark Harris, CCBC Fab Lab Staff
Currently, there are eighty-four fab labs in twenty-one countries with another twenty planned and many other similar labs located around the world. The trending technology signifies the fruition of the digital revolution which started in the virtual world and has now manifested in the physical one. The shift from requiring large scale machines to create replicable physical objects to the proliferation of desk top 3d printers is incredibly similar to that of the shift from mainframe computers that took up entire buildings to the accessibility to laptop computers that people carry with them everywhere and now, powerful computers we hold in the palm of our hand. The potential for these technologies and the opportunities created by them are just as profound as the ones created by the personal computer.
This is why the NEXTgen-M Conference is so incredibly important. We hope that you will join us for a set of conversations about some of the most transformative technologies in history.
Explore the CCBC Fab Lab