Maine group creating "FabLab" for 3D printing, laser processing


Brunswick, ME - A group of laser and 3D fabrication enthusiasts are seeking to bring a maker space to a former Naval Air Station in Brunswick, ME, with the goal of spurring innovation and increasing interest in STEM education (science, technology, engineering, math).

The Maine FabLab will be part of the MIT FabLab network founded by Neil Gershenfeld (he's also director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms MIT and director of the Fab Academy), with capabilities including open-source high-resolution 3D printing, micromachining, and other advanced technologies. The Maine FabLab group also involves Sarah Boisvert, cofounder of Potomac Photonics Inc. and a Fellow (and former president) of the Laser Institute of America (LIA).

The concept comes from the emergence and proliferance of high-tech tools such as 3D printers and laser machining workstations, and expertise in the design and production processes. Lasers and 3D printing have taken hold in various industries from auto to healthcare and medical devices (implants, stents) to aerospace (turbine blades and components, rocket engine parts) and jewelry. Proponents see an approaching future where such technologies and processes gain adoption at a smaller consumer scale enabling "mass customization."

The goal of the Maine FabLab is to locate a site at Brunswick Landing, the decommissioned Naval Air Station which was a local fixture (and economic supporter) for more than 60 years, and is now undergoing redevelopment by regional economic authorities. Initial equipment for the FabLab is expected to include a CO2 laser cutter & marker, UV laser micromachining workstation, and high-precision 3D printer. A staff of technicians, operators and senior designers will help users to develop their prototypes, and fees will be paid for level and length of design support, amount of materials used, etc. -- but the FabLab will be open access, and free to Maine students K-Ph.D. It also will offer workshops and classes, and foster sharing of ideas, capabilities, and concepts.

To create the FabLab, the group is turning to Crowdfunding -- seeking to raise $100,000 by Dec. 8 in a first phase of funding. A second phase would then bring in higher-precision equipment. The project is launching with a Kickstarter-style campaign with sales of FabLab items and experiences, but of course straightforward cash contributions are also happily accepted (and, minus the cost of rewards, they are tax-deductible.) Visit the Maine FabLab's Web site to learn more and participate.

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