Fab Lab Resources
In academia, community hackerspaces, and municipal libraries, fabrication labs and makerspaces are becoming an integral design and community tool. With the advent of desktop 3d printers, less expensive 3d scanners, and other equipment becoming more accessible, these community spaces are increasingly popular and numerous across the country and the globe.
From our experiences running a fab lab in NYC, we’ve compiled several resources and materials to help guide you navigate procurement or maintenance – and also some tips and tricks.
Find a Fab Lab Near You
Libraries with 3D Printers
Tech Shop Locations
- Chandler, Arizona
- San Francisco, California
- San Jose, California
- Detroit, Michigan
- St. Louis, Missouri
- Brooklyn, NY (coming soon)
- Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania
- Austin, Texas
- Arlington, Virginia
Fab Labs in NYC
Private Fab Labs
Fab Lab Books
What’s in a Fab Lab?
- 3D Printers
- Laser Cutters
- Vacuum Formers
- 3D Scanners/ Motion Capture
- Traditional Woodshop Tools
- Vinyl Cutters
- VR/ AR Gear
Team Management Resources
Asana (Project Management Software)
With Asana, you can create tasks, assign them to individuals or groups, and manage short term, mid term, and long term projects in a fab lab/ makerspace environment. Projects can include all relevant emails/ communications, and project files all in one place. Asana also has a mobile app feature and is cloud/ browser based – so no software is necessary on a desktop computer.
Asana tasks can be sorted by due date, who they are assigned to, and whether they are complete or incomplete. These tasks can be viewed as a calendar or a list.
Trello is another piece of cloud based project management software similar to Asana. For smaller teams, Trello may be better – but it’s mostly a question of what interface you prefer and what features you need most. Here is a comparison of both. Both Trello and Asana integrate with Google Drive and Drop Box and Slack.
Trello tasks are displayed on “cards” and “boards”.
Calculating Machine ROI
With academic fab labs, the return on investment may not be a monetary questions – but one of student/ patron/ member value. If you are running equipment for commercial usage, it’s important to calculate metrics for ROI to know what benchmarks to aim for.
Why calculate ROI?
It’s a good planning tool to know if you are meeting your goals/ budget and will help calculate how quickly you can afford another machine.
- Garbage In, Garbage Out: poor input and machine maintenance will result in poor quality results.
- Expenses are frequently under estimated
- Uptime/ machine utilization is frequently over estimated.
- Higher ROI’s can be achieved through EITHER lower purchase price or higher earnings
- This will help you evaluate whether to buy a machine, whether/how to bid a job
- If the ROI is too low, don’t do it! Go buy US Treasuries for 3%!
Creating Maintenance Schedules
Organizing the maintenance duties of a fab lab/ makerspace is critical for maintaining that the machine works, produces good output, and doesn’t depreciate at as quickly as a poorly maintained machine. Create a maintenance schedule where tasks can recur, be automated, and assigned.
- Integrate recurring maintenance tasks with your project management software/ google alerts
- Assign and report maintenance tasks
- Staying consistent will keep a clean shop with healthy machines
Common Fab Lab 3D Printers
3D Printing File Submission and Repair Resources
There are several cloud based services that cater to both academic fab labs and 3d printing service bureaus that help automate and centralize the file quotation and project management for 3d printing projects. These pieces of software can be embedded in your website on the front end for a more automated portal to send files to the lab or can be implemented on the back end to manage projects (or both.) Here are some examples of 3d printing service based project management software.
Why use one of these services?
- Manage custom 3d printed projects with multiple team members
- Quoting and file repair can be time consuming to do manually
- Emailing 3d files can be problematic when people send different native file types
Common Fab Lab Laser Cutters
Setting Up Laser Cutting Files
Calculating Laser Cutting Time
UCP (Universal Control Panel)
Universal Control Panel is the proprietary software to prepare files for a Universal brand laser cutter. If your lab has Universal laser cutters, anyone can download this software, input the material settings and do a test to see how long a project will take. This will help take some of the friction away from jobs that take much longer than their allotted time slot – because you can check before hand which will help with scheduling the laser cutting jobs in your makerspace.
Epilog Job Manager
The Epilog Job Manager is the file preparation software for Epilog brand laser cutting machines. It can also be used to estimate how long a project will take (without actually running the project.) It is more robust than UCP in that laser cutting jobs can be segmented into folders.
Compatible Laser Cutting Materials
|Material||Cut (Y/N)||Etch (Y/N)|
|Silk and Chiffon||Yes||Yes|
|Powder Coated Metal||No||Yes|