Community gets a peek inside UF's Fab Lab

Evan Vander Ploeg, senior in architecture, takes a video of a 3D printer at work during the A2 Fab Lab open house on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 in Gainesville, Fla. The Fab Lab is a joint effort between the college of art and architecture where students can use 3D printers, laser printers and other tools.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 10:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 10:29 p.m.

Cool weather on Thursday complemented the fall theme at A2 Fab Lab’s open house, where University of Florida students and faculty gathered to witness impressive technology.

“Tonight is really an exposure to the lab, an exposure to technology,” said Mat Chandler, director of UF’s A2 Fab Lab.

Fab Lab is a digital fabrication lab open to all UF students, faculty and staff. Advanced printing, cutting and scanning tools are available to anyone who pays a membership fee.

Last year, the lab invited the Gainesville community to its first open house to show live demos and teach about the lab’s capabilities.

Katelyn Oropeza, UF design, construction and planning communications coordinator who helped organize the event, said last year was so successful that Chandler wanted to host it again and try to get even more people involved.

“He doesn’t want just our students; he wanted everybody,” she said.

Having an open house is a way for people to become aware of the lab both as a place to come and create as well as a place to witness technology, Chandler said.

“Tonight I’m just hoping to open people’s eyes to everything,” he said.

The lab, in Room 307 of UF’s architecture building, is equipped with two laser cutters, three 3D printers, a 3D scanner and a three-axis CNC router. These tools are used to create architectural models, functional prototypes and creative works of art.

“I’m sure many people didn’t know that this was even possible. We have this at UF?” said Kenya Smith, 25, a digital arts and sciences graduate student. “I’m happy there’s a campus event just to expose people to it, because (the lab) is an awesome tool.”

Fab Lab began five years ago as a joint effort between the College of Design, Construction and Planning and the College of Fine Arts.

“We’ve all been collaborating together to make it happen,” Margaret Carr, College of Design, Construction and Planning associate dean, said Thursday.

Carr said projects like Fab Lab help the college meet the expectations of students.

Chandler told those in attendance that every day there are students, faculty and members of the Gainesville community coming to the lab to fabricate a variety of items.

“Anything from art to architectural models to prototypes of products,” he said.

Fab Lab even has medical applications, Chandler noted, as he held up a model of a collarbone printed in the lab.

For those who haven’t seen the lab or what it is capable of, Smith said she would recommend checking it out.

“It’s not something that every institution has,” she said. “If it’s something that we have the luxury to have, people should take advantage of it.”

Anyone looking to take advantage of the Fab Lab can find more information online at

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