Hightech-Werkstatt lädt zum Experimentieren ein © Yvonne Scheller

Experimenting in Hamburg's high-tech labs

Ideas become reality in OpenLab - Hamburg News visits lab at HSU

The high-tech lab run by the Laboratorium Fertigungstechnik (LaFT) at the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg has been set up as part of the fabrication laboratory or fab lab movement. These non-commercial labs come equipped with cutting edge technology, are open to the public and offer a means of achieving an idea free of charge.

All kinds of models

The HSU’s impressive “machine park” is open to creative minds and innovative start-ups. At the centre of the equipment are 3D printers in different sizes – the largest can produce up to one cubic metre models. The electronic department complements laser cutters, CNC mills, CNC lathes and standard tools such as standing drills, mitre saws and rechargeable drillers. Babasile Daniel Oladele-Emmanuel, 33, Lab Manager, noted: “All of the machines can be used separately after the introduction.” Oladele-Emmanuel, who hails from Nigeria, has analysed the challenges and solutions offered by fab labs all over the world. The results have all been inputted into the OpenLab Hamburg, which opened in December 2016.

3D printing may revolutionise commerce

The time for making waves with 3D printing appears opportune, according to the Chamber of Commerce. An analysis carried out on behalf of the chamber entitled Potentials and Challenges of 3D Printing for Hamburg’s Economy, noted: “Additive procedures and technologies – subsumed under the generic term 3D printing – are having a growing impact on existing value-added processes in global, national, regional economies and in Hamburg.” Some 257 companies surveyed in summer 2016 expect the influence of 3D printing to grow across all business sectors and especially in trade and transport. However, two-thirds of companies interviewed are wary of the high costs of purchasing 3D printers. A shortage of skills in 3D printing technology and constructing the printers poses yet another problem. The OpenLab Hamburg is catering to these needs with its facilities and offers further training in workshops.

Potential for learning from mistakes

Start-ups are among the OpenLab Hamburg’s special target groups, stressed Oladele-Emmanuel. “New ground can be broken here and ideas for prototypes can be developed. Thanks to the open source environment, special funding is not required and in the lab no idea is bad.” On the contrary, mistakes are valuable sources of innovation. Thus, the lab has adopted the motto of Silicon Valley: “Fail fast, fail early, fail better.” Visitors just have to like experimenting and playing around with new ideas. “They become reality – layer for layers with our 3D printers,” he added.

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Where to find fab labs:

More and more fab labs are emerging across Hamburg. The Creative Space for Technical Innovations (CSTI) at the University of Applied Sciences (HAW) is “a place for experimenting with tangible opportunities for collaborating, transferring knowledge and starting companies,” said Kai von Luck, CSTI Manager, during the opening on March 31, 2017 a day after the opening of the FabLab@TUHH. There, students, potential start-ups and TUHH’s staff have access to laboratories and rooms, spread over 120 square metres, to put the technology to practical use and turn out digital products. In June 2016, Gunther Oettinger, the EU’s Digital Commissioner at the time, opened the Digital Innovation LAB at the Hamburg School of Business Administration. The city’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

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