Introduction digital production
Werk in the FabLab usually consists of six steps:
Everything starts with an idea. But, as with every tool, each of the available digital tools has their own strengths and weaknesses. This makes it important to consider from the outset which machine can handle what material, and which construction method can be used for your idea. You are very welcome to drop by the FabLab for inspiration. Also look at the FabPublicaties or on Thingiverse. Websites of different FabLabs around the world can also provide inpsiration.
Our machines page lists the capabilities of the different tools in FabLab Amersfoort.
2. (Digital) design
All machines in the FabLab are computer controlled. Therefore the idea will have to be translated to machine instructions. The first thing in this regard is to make a drawing in either 2D or 3D, depending on the design. This drawing then has to be converted to instructions for the equipment. Finally, these instructions will have to be sent to the machine. Depending on the design and the machine, all this might be accomplished in one computer program, or can require several modifactions in different software suites. An overview of all required steps and available software can be found in this work flow diagram.
FabLab Amersfoort uses open source software. We recommend InkScape for 2D work, for 3D modeling we use Blender. KiCAD is a good choice for printed circuit board (PCB) design and PyCAM can be used to convert a 3D drawing to a toolpath. This software is all free, available for GNU/Linux, Windows and MacOS, and can be used freely for any purpose. Furthermore, you can aid further development of this software by giving feedback to the developers, or, if you are capable, to help write the code.
Further online tools and tutorials also exist which can help you create a digital design.
3. Finding machine settings suited to the material
Before executing a design on a machine it is recommended to first do some tests on paper or cardboard, to ensure the output is made at the correct size and that the mechanical principles involved work as intended.
Often you will also have to experiment a bit to find the correct settings on the machine for your specific material. Enough leftover material can usually be found in the FabLab to do these tests on. To aid in finding the correct settings, this site lists known machine settings.
4. (Digital) Production
Once you have finished the design and found the correct machine settings, then the time has come to create the final product. Please keep in mind that not during the open days not every machine you want to use may be available. Executing the design might also reveal parts of the process that need to be tweaked or changed, making this merely another intermediate step. First steps of digital production can be quite labour intensive.
If you are in a hurry, the FabLab can be rented for a day, or parts of a day, on other days than Tuesday.
A common misconception about digital production is that the tools do all the work. In practice, a certain amount of finishing is still required: glueing, screwing, filing, melting smooth, dusting, washing, etc..
The final stap in the work process is to share the knowledge you have gained, by editing the guides you used, or by publishing your design. This can be done by making or supplementing a FabPublication.
FabLab Amersfoort is open every Tuesday from 10:00 to 22:00 hours. We expect visitors to do something in return for using the lab. The system for that is as follows: On entry every visitor pays €50 cash. To earn those back you have to do something that is worth the same as using the Fablab has been worth to you. That can be anything: You can share your design, you can fix the lights, you can give us a tool we need, or leave (part of) your payment behind. At the end of the month we will use that money to pay the rent, do maintenance and buy new machines.
During the open days on tuesday you cannot reserve a machine. If you want to be sure you have a machine all to yourself, you can rent the Fablab on one of the other days.
When you come in you will see a lot of people working, and a few labmanagers will be walking around. They can help you get started, tell you if your material can be used in the fablab, and what machines to use. They will also make sure everyone gets his turn on the machines. You can ask them for advise if a machine doesn't do what you want it to, but they will often point to the online manual. You will have to at least try and figure things out yourself or with your fellow visitors. If that doesn't work, the Labmanager will of course help you. The machines are very user friendly and the manuals are clear. If they are not, you can edit them, this could be a nice way to earn your money back. You are also expected to help others.
You can register through this link: registration. After that you pay your fee to the Labmanager. He will tell the computer that you have payed. Now you can get started.
In Fablab Amersfoort we have a laser cutter, a vinyl cutter, a 3D printer and a milling machine. Visit the machines page for more info.