When the International Space Station needs a new part, it just makes one on-board. Thanks to a new 3D printer, the ISS team can now manufacture small pieces of machinery out of plastic, allowing for longer missions without having to rely on ground control for repairs.
While epic projects like this or entire houses being 3D printed in China have grabbed headlines lately, 3D printing is used more and more by everyday people, and there is a growing community of “makers” gathering at the Fredericton Makerspace.
Rick McAskill bought a printer last year and began holding small open houses at his place. He and a few friends would swap design ideas and tinker around with the machine. It was here the idea for Makerspace was born. McAskill, Philip Leblanc, Chris Wilby and a handful of others decided to make it happen – an open environment where people could simply create.
“We want people to learn. The vision was for it to be something to bring the art and sciences together, and to cross pollinate different disciplines that might not otherwise cross paths. If we brought all those together, what could we make?” says McAskill.
Located downtown on Saunders Street, Makerspace takes up two rooms in the old YMCA building and brings craft-time to a whole new level. Workshops are held every Thursday at 6 p.m on 3D printing, and other workshops on screenprinting, microelectronics and woodworking are held regularly, but the centre is open most weeknights for eager crafters.
While someone was working on a recycled driftwood tabletop, another was mending a record player. One member is printing a headphone clip for his desk from a design he tediously created.
“It’s awesome to see the reaction people have to have a computer literally print out a physical object they’ve designed themselves. Printing isn’t just for toys and trinkets – there are a couple pieces [here] that are prototypes for prosthetics,” McAskill says.
McAskill has made trips to several elementary schools around Fredericton and demonstrated the 3D printer to students.
“It’s really easy to teach people who are passionate about the simple stuff. The kids automatically get it. It’s fun to sort of see the parents catch up. They see the possibilities faster than adults,” he says.
The mishmash of activities available at the Fredericton Makerspace are a tribute to the amount of fun you can have. McAskill wants people to come give it a try regardless of their skill level.
“We’re not necessarily going to tell them what to make but we’re happy to help give them the skills to make what they want,” he says.
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