The UK’s first Fab Lab – a mini high tech factory for prototyping and product development – has opened in Manchester.
Based on an initiative from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, the community based innovation centre is dubbed as allowing anyone to build almost anything.
Inventions created at the centre already include a baby’s bottle with an inbuilt colour changing temperature gauge; a toothbrush with an inbuilt MP3 player; a folding travel carry cot; an ultra-light beach cricket bat; and model wind turbines.
The site has the capability for advanced engineers or complete novices to work with a wide range of materials including wood, acrylic, composite moulds, silicon, cardboard, sheet aluminium, plastics, copper foil and vinyl.
Technologies on offer include waxing, chemical moulding, milling and routing, laser cutting, electronics, textiles, embroidery, vinyl cutting and 3D scanning and printing facilities.
It is free to non-commercial users, but businesses and inventors can protect their product development ideas by paying to use the service.
The initiative has been orchestrated by the Manufacturing Institute, whose chief executive Julie Madigan said: “Fab Labs bring together the opportunities and skills to liberate the innovations of individuals, communities and small businesses. This is a groundbreaking opportunity to broaden our innovation base and increase crucial invention skills. It’s a proven grass roots approach that will directly benefit the economy and different parts of the community.
“The fast pace of innovation means control over design and creation of products is more important than ever. At a time when a reported one in seven manufacturers are bringing production back to the UK because of environment, cost and quality issues, local boutique manufacturing is the next generation.”
See www.fablabmanchester.org for more details.