Do-it-yourself tasks are no longer limited to knitting jumpers or making wooden benches. The phenomenon has morphed into what is now known as “fabbing” and refers to 3D printers and laser cutters to make individualised products such as mobile phones and even robots. All kinds of materials including synthetics or Perspex can be used in the production process. The trend originated in the United States and has gained a foothold in Germany in recent years.
Playing field for scientists and founders of start-ups
Workshops have been set up in many places to give as many people as possible access to the technology. The latest workshop of this kind is called the “Fabrication Laboratory” or fab lab at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg (TUHH). For some weeks now, students, potential start-ups and TUHH’s staff have had access to laboratories and rooms, spread over 120 square metres, to put this new technology to practical use and turn out digital products. Professor Josef Schlattmann, Head of the FabLab@TUHH, said: “The FabLab is a point of contact for all those keen on this technology and who help each other to implement it gradually and allows them to gain extensive, technological know-how.”
From the idea to reality
Those interested can exchange ideas and experiences in a creative space at TUHH and attend workshops on the new technology as well. Small, mechatronic prototypes can be installed and tested at an electronics workstation. Turing an idea for a product into a digital prototype is done in the CAE laboratory – a computer pool containing diverse software for developing technical products. First prototypes are made in the state-of-the art production lab where a filament printer, a stereolithography printer, a 3D scanner and a laser cutter are available.
Open Lab Days for everyone
While the the FabLab@TUHH is still in the early stages, Hamburg’s first fab lab can be found in St. Pauli near the Reeperbahn. The Fabulous St. Pauli lab is part of a network of around 600 “Fabrication Laboratories” worldwide and offers community workshops for beginners who wish to get to know 3D printers, laser-cutters and CNC milling machines. Weekly Open Lab Days are held for the general public.
FabLab@TUHH to open up
The fab lab at TUHH will be opened up to more users in the long term, Schlattmann confirmed, and noted: “Our goal is to give all those interested access to the machines and knowledge in the community. But we still have to learn how to organise that. As a result, we are concentrating on colleges and universities in Hamburg and their spin-offs initially and not least for insurance reasons. The fab lab will be available to private persons in future.“