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New Equipment Available at UTA FabLab

Shop Room Equipment

Picture By Lore Oyedele

Students can train to put new FabLab tools to work this semester.

The FabLab purchased $60,000 in equipment that was put into operation last fall, Libraries Dean Rebecca Bichel said in an email. The types of new equipment in the workshop include a ShopBot router, CNC Plasma Cutter, SawStop table saw and an industrial embroidery machine.

Bichel said an electric kiln and a ceramic printer, which cost the lab $13,000, will go into operation this year.

FabLab director Katie Peery said they purchased the equipment in 2016 when they were remodeling and expanding the workshop.

“Once it was here, it took a while before we even had a chance to play with any of it,” she said. “We had to learn it ourselves and then we had to teach our student employees how to use it and then now we have all the safeguards in place.”

The FabLab opened in Oct. 2014 and allowed students to use a 3-D printer, 3-D scanner, laser cutter, vinyl cutter, sewing machine, virtual reality and electronics, Peery said. Since then, the lab has expanded to include two laser cutters and more printers.

After developing trainings for the new equipment, the FabLab faculty began scheduling trainings for students in fall 2017, Peery said. They used the initial trainings to make sure it was safe while determining the most effective training times.

The lab posted a schedule for a number of trainings with the new equipment, running through spring break. After spring break, the lab will post another schedule of trainings through the rest of the semester.

“The equipment isn’t brand new, as in we just purchased it, but we are ramping up the number of trainings that we’re doing for our learners,” she said.

Peery said the new shop equipment will give students a chance to work with mostly wood and metal.

Students, faculty and staff hoping to use the shop equipment have to go through two trainings before they can enter the workshop, she said.

Everybody has to go through general shop safety orientation, where they learn policies, safety procedures and how to dress properly for the shop.

A student will then attend a training that covers a specific piece of equipment in the shop, Peery said. Students must become certified with each type of equipment before being able to use it.

“It’s very much a learning space where people are coming and learning how to actually use the equipment,” she said. “It’s not geared towards just being able to produce an end product.”

The FabLab is accessible to everyone on campus including staff and faculty. She said the FabLab has been trying to bring different students from around campus, such as liberal arts and nursing majors.

“If you belong to the UTA community then you have access to this space,” she said.

Civil engineering senior Nathan Ferguson was at the workshop on Feb. 26 learning to use drill presses.

He’s learning to use the workshop’s tools and equipment to fabricate a bridge to take to College Station for a competition in April. He’s part of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ student chapter, which is participating in the competition later this semester.

Ferguson said he’s used the 3-D printer for the past two years for personal reasons. He’s built a 20-sided die, headphone holders and cell phone holders.

“[It] allows you to be creative with what you can do with those tools,” he said.

Article By Colby Farr, The Shorthorn Staff