We have been very fortunate to receive a DGCIS grant to create a Fablab in Calais. It took several months for the equipment to arrive, then build the machines and finally turn on the electricity. We now have a full complement of 3D Printers, Laser cutter, Shopbot, 3D scanner, electronics, hand tools – the full Fablab experience. We have the full complement of machines, training, free days and community participation to classify as an AAAA Fablab. We have also hired a team and created an association to manage the growth of the Fablab.
You can see from the pictures that each machine arrived in hundreds of pieces. These pictures show most of the parts of just the shopbot. We chose to buy unassembled machines so we would have a better understanding of their operation and to lower the cost. Our Fablab team, Kevin and Erol, were able to learn the inner workings of each machine and get a physical workout as the machines were assembled. In total, it took us almost two months to create the work space then assemble, install and calibrate the 11 principal machines. We are still in the process of creating more workspaces, enclosures and purchasing additional equipment.
The reason for all this expense and work is to bring a full function Fablab to Cote d’Opale. We want designers, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, hobbyists and the interested to find a place where they can learn and use the machines. Both Kevin and Erol are trained in all machines and can assist clients as they take their idea to finished products. We now have a Fablab Manager, Raphael, and all is ready for clients, students and the curious.
After one month in operation, prototypes for a new type of boat have been created on the laser cutter. The shopbot was used to cut wood for drawers. On the 3D printer, prototypes and simple objects were printed as well as replacement parts for a car door. The startup TankOfTime, built the prototypes of their smartwatch and chargers in the Fablab. Several other startups are in the design stage and will use the Fablab to create prototypes and limited production.
It is very satisfying to create a drawing in a 3D program on a computer and watch it come to reality using one of the machines.
Creating the Fablab and launching has been a large group effort. We had assistance from the CCI Cote d’Opale when we created the plan and they then provided the studio space. EDF donated desks and chairs. SNCF Development, Vivendi and Calais Promotion provided operating capital. The local engineering school, ULCO, provided technical knowledge and will pool resources with the Fablab. You can find out more at www.fablabcotedopale.com