A Visit to the Imperial College Advanced Hackspace

There are a great many makerspaces around the world and we recently were able to visit the Imperial College Advanced Hackspace in London. 

The hackspace is intended for use by students and staff to transform their ideas into physical objects, and therefore includes a wide variety of making equipment, including 3D printers. 

Unlike many makerspaces, the ICL space is discontiguous, occupying space in no less than six different physical locations across campus. This arrangement is a result of gradual growth and incorporation of existing facilities, but is entirely functional for its users. Today some 700 members have access to the hackspace, and around 150 use it frequently. 

The ten-month old ICL Hackspace offers woodworking, plastics, metal working and two specialized “wet labs” for biotech projects, in addition to a number of 3D printers. Started last September with an investment of £300K (USD$460K), the facility is now a very popular and functional service for ICL students. 

Managed by Larissa Kunstel-Tabet shown at top, the facility does take special interest in 3D printing capabilities. Here we see their most powerful 3D printer, a ZCorp Z650, capable of 3D printing full color objects.

If you look closely, this machine has a red spot, part of ICL Hackspace’s usage procedures. Each machine has a “spot” that indicates who can operate it. In this case, “red”, means the Z650 can only be operated by the technician.

Other machines may have “green” or “orange” spots indicating lesser usage protocols. More accessible 3D printers (Ultimakers and MakerBots) were added to ICAH’s fleet in September 2014. 

The Hackspace occupies space wherever it can be found within the campus, and in one case they’re doubling up the functionality of a classroom by installing a bank of Ultimaker 2 3D printers at the side of the room. This does cause complications, as classes are held within this room during the day. The Hackspace has thus instituted procedures to ensure classes are not disturbed by 3D printing activities. 

Due to very heavy demand, they’re working on opening a new facility specifically designed for digital making, including even more 3D printers, which are currently “at capacity”. 

Here we see an bank of 3D printers organized on a set of racks. Note the filters at top that (when hooked up) can capture fumes and nanoparticles emitted by the machines, ensuring a safer environment for students. 

One interesting feature shown was this set of 3D printed Octopi, which can easily explain sizes, costs and resolutions to those new to 3D printing. We think this type of display should be available in any public space offering 3D printing, as they’re easy to make and very informative. 

The ICAH is intended for use by members of ICL, but we’re hopeful that similar facilities can be made available to the public, who also have ideas requiring transformation into physical reality with 3D printing. 

Via ICAH

General Fabb

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has been writing Fabbaloo posts since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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