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Henrik De Goffau

The Bitz Fablab – what is it?

By | Food for thought, Work

Did you notice? Next to the Museion, there is a new office. In large letters, it says: “Bitz Unibz Fablab.” What exactly is it?

What is Bitz?

If you are looking to experiment with some digital manufacturing machines, this might be the place for you! Bitz has 3D printers, a laser cutter, a vinyl cutter and a CNC mill tyou can use. There are also some manual tools available. And.. the fablab is not only for university students, but for everyone. So if you want to make something nice for yourself or if you just want to experiment, Bitz is the place to be. But what exactly is a fablab?

Digital manufacturing

Fablabs offer places for making. The growing accessibility of digital manufacturing machines empowers non-expert citizens to produce custom made objects. Digital manufacturing means that you draw the models and send it to the machine. Then the machine manufactures the design. There are two categories of digital manufacturing: additive and subtractive. An example for additive manufacturing is 3D printing: the machine builds up or solidifies material to create a model. One advantage is that less waste is created. A disadvantage is that this is only possible with limited materials. Subtractive manufacturing means taking away from a bigger piece of material. Examples are laser cutting and milling. Techniques like turning are also part of this category. An advantage is the speed; a disadvantage is that always some material is wasted.

The maker movement

The movement the Bitz Fablab is part of is called the DIY or maker movement. This movement focuses on manufacturing and “hacking” your own objects at home, and machines like 3D printers are ideal for that. For example, we interviewed David and Camilla from Hartmannweg5. They are setting up a small business using a Prusa RepRap 3D printer, manufacturing custom-made objects. The Reprap is fascinating because it can 3D print parts of itself, so it is to some extend able to reproduce itself. Also, Camilla customized her analog camera using a 3D printed part.

Another example is the laser cutter, which can be used to cut custom made parts with a very high accuracy.

— You can also download your 3d models, instead of drawing them by yourself. A good thing to look out for is open source files.

Open source

Open source means that instead of having copyright on your design, you allow others to use it. A way to distribute files is using Creative Commons licensing. Creative Commons allows other makers to use your file. The condition is that they also add the Creative Commons license to their model and attribute the original maker. There are many open source models available online, so if you want to make something complex, just look it up — maybe it exists already!

Some disadvantages..

If you want to manufacture many of the same pieces, 3D printing is generally not the best option. 3D printing uses a lot of energy because heat is needed to print. Also it takes quite some time to print, even though machines are getting faster nowadays. For subtractive techniques it is important to treat the material efficiently, in order not to generate too much waste. Also, accurate machines need homogenous materials like plastic, mdf and foam, which are often, when trashed, not recyclable and toxic for our environment. So mind your material choice!

Back to the Bitz

Digital manufacturing can help us create our own custom-made world. The Bitz is a place where young and old can be creators. Do you want to be a maker? You can find out more about Bitz online:

https://bitzfablab.unibz.it/

https://www.facebook.com/bitzunibzfablab/

Even better…just go there and take a look around!

Image by: bitzfablab.unibz.it

 

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