First of fab labs to open for business

WILL HARVIE
Last updated 05:00 27/05/2013
Bridget McKendry and Carl Pavletich
Will Harvie
FOUNDERS: Bridget McKendry and Carl Pavletich with their 3D printer.
Makercrate
PROTOTYPE: A Makercrate, like the one about to be installed in Christchurch, at its unveiling at Te Papa in Wellington in April.

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The maker community is bringing a fab lab to Christchurch next month and hopes to start self-replicating soon after.

The "fabrication laboratory" - a 20-foot shipping container - will be filled with three dimensional printers, laser and vinyl cutters, computer-driven routers and other hi-tech manufacturing devices, and Cantabrians will be invited to take courses for nominal fees.

Going by the name Makercrate, the container will initially be installed on the Crowne Plaza hotel site, near the Pallet Pavilion.

If all goes well, founders Carl Pavletich and Bridget McKendry will convert more containers into hi-tech fabrication facilities and site them at schools and other community facilities.

Makercrate is a "social enterprise focused on creating open access to fabrication technology and education", Pavletich said.

It's part of the "maker movement", a global community of people who like to make stuff.

They share ideas and files online, often based on "open source" principles. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Boston, is usually credited with founding the movement in the 1990s.

It's not too far distant from the Men's Shed movement, Pavletich said, only more hi-tech.

"I just like making things," McKendry said. "That's what makes me happiest, along with teaching people how to make things."

She demonstrated a 3D printer at a Ministry of Awesome event in Christchurch last week. In about an hour, she printed a plastic model of the Crowne Plaza hotel about the size of two stacked match boxes.

She said 3D printers can already self-replicate some of their own parts.

Pavletich compared the recent emergence of 3D printing to the rise of microwave ovens. People were "really excited" back then.

"It seems absurd now, but we're in another of those moments," he said.

The first Makercrate was manufactured in Wellington by Colab181 (colab.makers.org.nz) and Monz  (Maker.org.NZ) for the purpose of being sent where it was needed.

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Christchurch City Council donated $15,000 from its Creative Industries Support Fund to fund Makercrate and Pavletich said course fees would make the non-profit venture self-supporting.

The container is too small for classes larger than seven or eight people, which is a "good way to teach," McKendry said. "It's not all about hi-tech. We make fabrics, too," she said.

More info: makercrate.org & meetup.com/Makercrate-ChCh.

Open Source 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.nz or comment below.

- The Press

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