Massey sets up Australasia's first Fab Lab

Massey industrial design student Nick van Halderen in the Fab Lab with a 3D printer from MIT
Massey University’s School of Design in Wellington is setting up Australasia’s first digital fabrication facility

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Massey University’s School of Design in Wellington is setting up Australasia’s first digital fabrication facility affiliated to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Massey University’s School of Design in Wellington is setting up Australasia’s first digital fabrication facility affiliated to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Fab Labs provide widespread access to modern means for invention, such as laser cutters, milling machines and 3D printers. (3D printers create three-dimensional objects from computer files by adding layers of material, most commonly plastic or cornstarch.)

Fab Labs began as an outreach project from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms in 2003. To be MIT-affiliated, a lab must adhere to a set of operating principles and provide a standard range of equipment. There are now about 130 existing and planned Fab Labs worldwide, from innercity Boston to rural India, South Africa to the North of Norway, but Massey’s will be the first in Australasia.

“We want to be a hub to get labs across New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific,” says Industrial Design Lecturer Chris Jackson. “We’re already talking to other universities, wananga, secondary schools and public libraries.”

Overseas, Fab Lab projects have included solar and wind-powered turbines, thin-client computers and wireless data networks, analytical instrumentation for agriculture and healthcare, custom housing, and rapid-prototyping of rapid-prototyping machines.

Mr Jackson hopes the Fab Lab will help make digital fabrication technology accessible to sole traders and small start-ups in New Zealand. “Until relatively recently, 3D printers were costly and inaccessible to the public. What we’re seeing now is the domestication of the technology, with more and more people finding ways to share projects, expertise and equipment.”

He also says being part of the global Fab Lab network opens up huge opportunities for New Zealanders. “Fab Lab projects are open source and can be shared between labs. There’s good evidence that openness can stimulate people to be more innovative, and speeds up invention. There’s already a DIY maker movement here working on the cusp of new technology with a contemporary Number 8 Wire mentality. Fab Lab feeds into that culture. We can provide access to technology, but also help people make connections between disciplines and industries, and that should be a catalyst to more innovation in New Zealand.”

Fab Lab Wellington will have designated open hours for the general public, including workshops where people can learn from Massey’s industrial designers.

In addition, Massey University is hosting the 8th annual international Fab Lab meeting, in Wellington, August 22-28. This will include a one-day public symposium at the Michael Fowler Centre on August 27, addressing a mind-boggling array of topics at the frontier of digital fabrication including prototyping in outer space and 3D printing human organs for transplant. Registrations from the general public are welcome.


Media Release: Massey University

Written by

Massey University, College of Creative Arts

20 Jul 2012

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