Dreams become reality at UW-Stout with new ‘Fab Lab’

(WEAU) - Have you ever wanted to invent something but didn't know how? Well now at UW-Stout your dreams can become a reality.

It’s a concept that began more than a decade ago in Boston and that concept is called Fab Lab, which is a digital fabrication lab. It means users have the opportunity to develop ideas just by clicking a mouse.

"What we like to think is you can take your idea and you can make it come to life," said Randy Hulke, Discovery Center Director.

The sky is the limit down in the Fab Lab at UW-Stout.

"I'm going to hit go here and it’s going to send it to the machine," said Mike Cropp, Fab Lab Manager.

There are five machines that can make a variety of products such as a mini-mill, a vinyl cutter to make graphics and even a router to make a rocking horse is possible.

"This machine is a laser engraver. It cuts materials like wood and plastic," said Cropp.

The Fab Lab Manager even cut out a business card holder with my name on it for my desk.

"It's going back and forth right now. It's engraving the logo into the acrylic right now," said Cropp.

Students and soon members of the community, most likely spring, can use the facility at Stout to make their dreams come true.

"We're also running industry projects through here. We're allowing innovators, entrepreneurs that sort of thing, access to this space as well,” said Hulke.

In the Fab Lab users have the opportunity to communicate with different Fab Labs around the world via camera to share ideas with places like Barcelona.

Only three other Fab Labs exist in Wisconsin and the creativity is endless. There's even a machine to build 3d models.

"What the software does is it will take that file, slice it into layers and then it will additively build your part in 3D,” said Cropp.

A 2-inch model that was made by the machine took 6 hours for the machine to build.

"We can use these machines to build other machines that can do the same thing,” said Cropp.

"Ideally what it would be is something that may be has some potential to become a business [or] maybe somebody's got a hobby they really enjoy doing,” said Hulke.

The Fab Lab opened this week and took a few months to complete but was made possible through a multiyear $520,000 growth agenda award from the UW System.


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