The Fab Lab Cockermouth project draws to a close this week. The three year programme, part funded by Britain’s Energy Coast (BEC), the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), and others has met its original aims and seen over a 1,000 local school children enthused about STEM skills and hundreds of businesses assisted. Furthermore the team that came together at the lab will use the skills they have developed to go onto start their own business.
Fab Lab Cockermouth has been a place where anybody can make virtually anything – a digital fabrication workshops which was set up to give people a place to design and make and to inspire and educate. The idea was conceived by renowned scientist and inventor Neil Gershenfeld from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in America.
The Fab Lab has given many young people and businesses their first taste of laser cutting, 3D printing and other cutting edge technologies.
BEC Energy & Funding Manager, Joe Martin, commented: “It’s been an amazing experience to bring the Fab Lab to Cumbria. The initial concept was born out of MIT and sparked 100s of labs over the world. When it opened, many of these technologies were inaccessible and too expensive for many to take advantage of. Through the three years of the project, however, the manufacturing industry has caught up and such technologies are now more commonplace. The team at Fab Lab Cockermouth, and indeed the entire Fab Lab network can be proud of the part they have played in changing the prototyping and manufacturing landscape.”
Michael Pemberton, CEO of Britain’s Energy Coast said: “The team can be really proud of the work they have achieved during the three years of the Fab Lab project. They have brought great creativity and enthusiasm to the lab. We wish them every success in the new venue and look forward to seeing them flourish.”
Design Code Ltd is a new 3D Design and digital fabrication company offering creative design solutions using the latest technology. Zoe Crossan, Fab Lab Cockermouth Manager will lead the company and be joined by Simon Blackburn and Hannah Reid.
“We have really enjoyed working as a Fab Lab and look forward to using our creative design and 3D digital fabrication skills in our new design business,” commented Zoe. “We are excited about being a new business located in Cumbria; a county that will see significant change and growth in the next 20 years. We look forward to taking an active role in the large industrial and housing developments and the regeneration of existing town centres. Many new visitor attractions, hotels, restaurants and shopping centres are already in the planning stages or under construction. These projects will all require different elements of dynamic design work that Design Code Ltd can provide to ensure their success.”
Wild Zucchinis Bistro opened in 2014 in the centre of Cockermouth and is owned by Manon Plouffe. The Fab Lab Cockermouth team worked with Manon and Kim Butler, interior designer, to turn artist’s sketches and ideas into feasible designs for digital manufacturing. These were then scanned and cut using laser technology and the ShopBot CNC router. Since opening, it has been the top cafe on TripAdvisor in Cockermouth.
“They gave me immense support and expertise at a time where I wouldn’t have known where to find help. I am elated with the results and everybody that comes in thinks it is a beautiful space.” – Manon Plouffe, Wild Zucchinis Bistro.
In 2010, Sally Phillips had the idea for an innovative draught excluder for chimneys made from 100% Herdwick sheep wool – the Chimney Sheep was born. With help from Lancaster University on the design of the handle, extension rod and clamp, Sally launched the product in 2012. Since then, the product in its various shapes and forms has sold more than 16,000 units and has been recognised in the Green Economy Awards, winning the 2013 SME Energy Efficiency category sponsored by the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
After initial production runs, Sally came to the Fab Lab with designs to improve the handle. These had been created by her manufacturer incorporating stiffening ridges as the existing extension rod was too flexible.
“My manufacturer supplied me with drawings which Fab Lab printed into a 3D sample for me. I has used a commercial prototyping company when I first developed the handles, rods and clamps. Fab Lab provided a cheaper, quicker and more local service.” – Sally Phillips, Chimney Sheep.
Fab Lab Cockermouth made the first batch of Stars from recycled vinyl and wooden material. More Stars were made by Star Maker volunteers across the county from whatever materials they could get their hands on. Knitted Stars, papier-mâché stars and many other varieties were soon on sale alongside the original Fab Lab Spirit of Cumbria Stars.
The team had a lot of fun with this large scale laser cut project on the final day of our summer school for kids 8-11yrs. The EleFab, an elephant that is over 6ft tall, is on display at Workington shopping centre, Dunmail Park.
The EleFab was originally designed by Fab Lab Barcelona and replicated by our younger summer school kids, under the experienced eye of Fab Lab staff and volunteers. To create the EleFab, the team had to follow a digital mesh guideline. The EleFab is made up of 95 triangular pieces of card that were numbered and then cut and etched with a laser cutter.
With the help of local school children, the EleFab was then assembled at Dunmail Park and the project was completed on Friday 7th August.
In 2014 Jack Hardie, who writes computer software, and his potter wife Joan were so inspired by a 3D printing workshop at Cockermouth’s Fab Lab that they decided to make a 3D printer which uses clay, rather than plastic or nylon. Joan decided to experiment with printing clay using a 3D printer which made it possible to create ceramic forms not achievable by other means. Jack frequented the Fab Lab to discuss 3D CAD design and to get parts for their new machine fabricated on the Fab Lab’s 3D printers.
‘There were no commercial 3D printers available to do what we envisaged, so we built our first 3D printer, combining art, craft and technology in a new way, opening up possibilities that are fascinating to explore.’ – Jack Hardy
Fab Lab Cockermouth opened in 2013 and was supported by Britain’s Energy Coast, the NDA, The James Fisher Foundation, Defra and the RDPE.