Not known to many people on campus, the Digital Fabrication Lab – also known as the Fab Lab – is where students learn how to manufacture through the process of machines. For students who love to cut things, create things, creatively solve problems and want to know programming and coding, this is the place.
“We can print something three-dimensionally, we can cut something with a laser or we can cut something with a router,” said professor Chris Kelly, Director of Art and overseer of the Fabrications Lab. “Everything in here comes out of the digital world.”
It was brought over to Piedmont by graphic design major Rebekah Kanipe, who took a two-week workshop at Penland School of the Arts and Crafts in North Carolina in 2018. In this workshop, she learned how to use computer aided design and computer aided machining – also known as CAD and CAM technology – with laser cutting, solely on wood. This year, the program was brought over to Piedmont, and since starting the Fab Lab, Kanipe has made multiple innovative chairs and has taught other students of Piedmont on how to use the items in the lab.
Along with the ability to make innovative chairs, the laser cutter can also engrave to the tiniest detail on the side of a yeti cup. Along with the laser cutter in the fab lab comes a 3D printer, a paper cutter and sensory technology kits.
“I want to make a lamp you could turn on by licking it,” said Hannah Oliver, who is working on building a lamp that turns on and off by the moisture in the tongue.
Other projects by students using sensory technology are a sensory piano and a rotating ballerina that switches direction with each tap.
“The idea is to solve problems,” said Kelly. “Students come in with problems and solve them.”
One of the main foci of the fab lab is to find solutions to everyday problems. A couple of the students made a cutting board with a measuring cup attachment to measure the food as it is being cut.
“It doesn’t have to be reasonable, it just has to solve the problem,” said Raleigh Wunderlich for her invention of solving the problem for Pringles cans. She plans to have an automated tube that pushes up the snack as chips are taken, as to not get one’s hand stuck half way through eating Pringles.
With Kanipe’s chair, she had to make multiple mockup models to find out if the chair was stable or not before she could make the real, life-size chair.
“It’s not necessarily an art class. It’s not a design class. It’s not a business class.” Said professor Kelly about the Intro to Digital Fabrication course. “But hopefully students from all the different majors can use this course to create stuff for their work.”
The fab lab is not exclusive to one major. Although it may be in the art annex building, the lab is not just for art majors. Theater Major Shanna Ward uses the router cutter to create faster and more efficient sets for plays.
“As we’re discovering what can be made within these walls, the idea is that you can make anything you want with the help of the digital world,” Kelly said.