Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Author Archive

Makerspace: Towards a New Civil Infrastructure – Chris’s Thoughts

In an article titled, “Makerspace: Towards a New Civic Infrastructure,” researcher Will Holman explains the history of makerspaces and discusses their current status and value in society. The article was published last month and is interspersed with cool pictures of fab labs and makerspaces around the country.

Holman goes into detail about some of the creative spaces that could be seen as the earliest iterations of modern day makerspaces. Mechanics’ Institutes in the mid-1800’s had many of the same intentions as today’s makerspaces—promoting mechanical skills and a spirit of inventiveness.

Small public do-it-yourself spaces sprung up in San Francisco in the 1940’s. However, the modern makerspace movement has been more recent. The first Fab Lab was opened in the early 2000’s at MIT. Soon after, TechShop, the largest for-profit makerspace company, opened its first location. Since then, growth has been relatively rapid—however, there have been some notable failures and closures of makerspaces.

Holman discusses some of the pros and cons of the maker-movement. He notes that makerspaces disproportionately target male, well-educated, affluent individuals.

Holman talks about some cool inventions that have some out of makerspaces. The foldable Oru Kayak was one I found particularly cool.  Holman notes that the company Square has been the only hugely successful company attributed to the maker-movement.

Holman argues that makerspaces have often been evaluated with metrics normally used with startups:  “fast expansion, impressive investment, and the appearance of so-called ‘unicorns’ — ideas that blossom into companies worth billions.” Holman argues that we should use more broad and holistic metrics, but he doesn’t detail what exactly those metrics should look like.

Overall, the article was a good read and it’s worth a quick skim for the pictures alone. One of the biggest things I’m wondering after reading the article is if either the non-profit or for-profit makerspace model will eventually dominate the other.

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Less Talented Than I Thought: Digital Embroidery

This semester in our Makerspace class, I had the exciting opportunity to choose my own design and watch a sewing machine embroider it for me.  Pretty cool and seemingly simple, right?!  It really isn’t too difficult, but I looked past some key steps in the process that pointed me to failure.  Read on to hear my story and learn from my mistakes:

Once I had my design prepared, I was so excited to get started.  I hit the send button and waited for it to magically create my intricate design, but it did quite the opposite.  My canvas immediately popped out from its frame, the thread got tangled, and the design wasn’t looking right.  I figured they were quick fixes, and took care of the problems and kept it running.  The increasingly loud hum of the machine told me that something was going very wrong, so I finally took a look on the backside and not only found that the design was out of sync, but that the machine was actually threading the top thread into the bobbin and had broken the needle without me noticing.  It was a wreck!  

To avoid embarrassment or something, I chose to just destroy all evidence that I created that disaster of a piece and started over.  Once I took apart the machine and gave it a look, I had just missed some of the most basic steps involved in using a sewing machine.  Instead of using an embroidery foot, I used a normal sewing foot.  That caused my piece of canvas to drag along rather than smoothly glide in the ways that it was supposed to.  I also realized that I hadn’t threaded the bobbin correctly, which caused a lot of my design to have white speckles on the top.  It explained so much!  So I tried again and here is what I got: 


It looks better, right?! Still not perfect, but it’s getting there.  You can still see that there were some issues with the white speckles, and the light green color was threaded incorrectly so the thread wasn’t pulled tight (and was a mess underneath!).  My expectations had dropped astronomically, and although it was imperfect decided to settle on this design. 

I learned from this project that each and every step is vital to complete a project successfully when you are using any machine, from a electronic cutter to a 3D printer and everything in between.  I spent a lot of time perfecting the design and finding the perfect colors, but the design still failed because I didn’t pay attention to the small details that go into into setting up the machine correctly.  This class has taught me how to combine the creativity of a child and the intricacy and detail-orientation of a genuis (well, I would like to think so)! 

Even though I never got to see that perfect final product of my design, I can still appreciate it for what it is.  I learned tons more from my failure in Digital Embroidery than in any area where I succeeded on my first try.  I’m grateful that the Fab Lab provides a space where failure is acknowledged and even encouraged for the sake of truly learning.  

Make on!

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Assignment 0 – Embroidery Gone Wrong

For part of our textiles assignment, we were supposed to embroider a piece of our own clothing. I chose my victim to be a Yahoo shirt, just one of many free shirts that I have no emotional connection with. The final result was supposed to be Google’s colorful new logo, which would let me use multiple colors of thread, and was of a simple design that would minimize the chances of me having to re-embroider multiple times. I had already done some embroidering on canvas, so I wasn’t too concerned about how this would go. Unfortunately, my first attempt looked like this.IMAG0735
I should have known things were not progressing as they should have the moment I saw the white bobbin thread on the same side of the pattern. But I didn’t, and so when I started up the embroidery machine again after putting in a spool of yellow thread, it jammed. All this time the bobbin thread was not set properly, and even if I had seen it, I wouldn’t have been able to tell anything was wrong. After the machine jammed and decided to enact a death grip on my shirt, there was no choice but to separate the two with force. Hence if you look closely at the image above, you may notice a hole in my shirt. Slightly peeved, I went on to successfully embroider the logo on the same shirt.IMAG0736

There is a noticeable lack of visible bobbin thread in the successful attempt, and for the most part it looks quite nice. If I was to embroider on a similar material in the future, I would not stretch out the fabric as much, since the logo looks a little scrunched up. Ideally, I would only be embroidering slightly thicker, stiffer fabrics in the future, as getting this shirt set up properly for embroidery was a pain simply because it was so stretchy. We were warned that shirts were a pain in general to worth with because the rest of the clothing tends to get in the way and it absolutely did since I spent as much time waiting for the machine to embroider as I spend tweaking the placement of the shirt and stabilizing paper. I know that there is no way I can totally prevent accidents like this happening in the future, seeing how many needles have been broken by my classmates even when they seem to have done everything right. Fortunately, with the help of the staff, this proved to be yet another great learning experience. It is safe to say I can now recognize the appearance of the bobbin thread as an omen of impending disaster.

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Assignment 0: 3D printing project

For one of the 3D printing projects, we were asked to design a dinner wear with a group theme. Our team decided our theme to be a dinner wear that has multiple functions. Instead of using Tinkercad, I decided to use the software Sculptris. Although unlike Tinkercad, Sculptris doesn’t have a clear measurement to keep track of the size of my work, I chose Sculptris because I thought Sculprtris is a software that I can use it to create any shape with smoother lines. However, Sculptris is a challenging software. I spent about an hour to have a rough idea about what function each of the tools has. I started create my work with a sphere. The multiple tools in Sculptris allowed me to pull or press the sphere into different shapes. I ended up making a bowl with two small cup aside for dressing and a little extension on the side to put utensils. 

When I decided to 3D print my dinner wear, I couldn’t print it in its actual size, because I was using the UP 3D printer, which is a small 3D printer and it will cost much time if I print it full size. Therefore I scaled down my model to 30%. With the help of Gabriel, I was able to set up the printer successfully and understood how to change the filament of the printer. Here are some pictures of my 3D printed bowl: 

螢幕快照 2015-12-04 下午5.01.53螢幕快照 2015-12-04 下午5.01.28

However, my 3D printed bowl wasn’t as perfect as it will be. First of all, I didn’t think about the support structure issue when I was setting the position of my model. Therefore, there were many support structures on my object, and I had a hard time of taking them off, even though Jeff introduced me some handy tools. Also there were original two handles underneath the two dressing cups, but I scaled down my model too much I was not able to tell which part was the support structure which part was not. Moreover, there were holes in my bowl and cups. Jeff said it was because sometimes when people designed their objects in Sculptris there will be some minor twists or holes that people couldn’t tell, when people were pulling and twisting the model in the software. To avoid this situation happening again, next time I will scale down my model to 50% and change another placing position to avoid many support structure. 

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