In a grand opening on Monday afternoon, Edmonds Community College flung open the doors of The Facility. The college launched the new Rapid Proto Lab as a community-based nexus of creativity where “makers” — those with an idea — are provided with the equipment, skills and training to make it reality.
So what’s a Rapid Proto Lab? Also called a “MakerSpace,” it’s a facility packed with equipment, including 3D printers and scanners, laser cutters, CNC (computer numeric control) routers, and a staff trained to national industry standards so they can instruct others how to use them.
Want to cut and engrave your own parts on a laser cutter? How about turn your dreams into reality on a Flashforge 3D printer? Or bring in your own sculpture, artifacts or other objects and convert them into 3D computer models with a laser scanner.
“Many great ideas have never become reality because the last step is so tough,” said MakerSpace project designer David Voetmann. “Developing the initial idea and then getting that design into a computer as a digital model was fairly straightforward. But taking the final step to bring it out of the ether and actually fabricate it in the real world meant sending it away to a specialized factory and took lots of time and money.”
Now, thanks to better and less expensive 3D printers and other advanced equipment, Voetmann said, “what used to take months and megabucks can be completed in a few hours at a fraction of the cost. Our staff will train you fast; you’ll be up and running in an hour or two. And then the sky’s the limit!”
“We are so proud of this new MakerSpace,” added Edmonds Community College President Dr. Jean Hernandez. “If you’re looking to gain cutting-edge skills for your first career, re-tool for a second or third career, or just have that burning idea that needs to be made reality, this is the place for you.
“During the day our students in Engineering Technology use it,” Hernandez continued, “but it’s just too good to keep to ourselves. So we’re opening it in the evening to our neighbors — ordinary people with extraordinary ideas — to turn their thoughts into things. Community is, after all, our middle name!”
The Facility is located in Monroe Hall, 6606 196th St. S.W., and is open between 5 and 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday by appointment. There are nominal hourly fees to cover the cost of the equipment and staff time. For more information or to make an appointment, contact David Voetmann at 206-612-2618 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel