Fab Lab

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They've quit their day jobs to establish New Zealand's second fabrication laboratory - a Fab Lab - and now have seven 3D printers, a laser cutter and other machines plus a social mission to turn people from consumers into makers.

Carl Pavletich and business partner Bridget McKendry founded the Fab Lab as a transitional project after the quakes and have now moved permanently into the creative space at Exchange Christchurch (XCHC).

The Fab Lab XCHC is a "community digital fabrication workshop that supports grass-roots innovation", reads their website. "Everything we do is designed on a computer and output in real life," McKendry said. They've helped elderly women 3D-print buttons, children manufacture objects from the computer game Minecraft and are working with cycling enthusiasts to improve their riding experience.

Armed with a two-year, $200,000 grant from Rātā Foundation first-in-New Zealand Social Enterprise Fund, they want to "empower people to become the makers and creators of their own world".

Their goal is to train people how to use 3D printers, then allow them access to the Fab Lab's printers to undertake projects, Pavletich said. "We're building capability," he said.

They've also got a vinyl cutter, which can also handle leather and other fabrics; a large laser cutter, which can cut wood, MDF, perspex and other plastics; a milling machine; a mini "computer numerical control" (CNC) machine and plans for a larger CNC capable of handling plywood sheets.

"The philosophy is people can come here and make just about anything," McKendry said.

The Fab Lab started in Christchurch as a 20-foot container called MakerCrate on the former Crowne Plaza Hotel site and next to the Pallet Pavilion. Opened for workshops and after-school programmes, the Fab Lab was successful enough for the pair to expand to XCHC. Plans are afoot for a retail shop and cafe at the Arts Centre next year. It would sell things made in the Fab Lab.

Interested folks can drop in Fridays noon-5pm and Saturdays 11am-3pm at 376 Wilsons Rd. More info: fablabxchc.org.nz.

This article was written by Will Harvie via Open Source which is a weekly series featuring innovative, interesting ideas emerging within the city and region. If you want to share an idea, email will.harvie@press.co.