Founded in late 2012 by Stephen Tibbitts, FabLab Tacoma is a community-based prototyping and technology workshop that’s open to the public with a membership business model. I spoke with Stephen recently to learn more. “We opened up the FabLab to provide easy access to cutting-edge design and prototyping equipment such as a ShopBot CNC router, laser cutters and 3D printers. We are here to facilitate educational opportunities and provide a supportive community for students, inventors, artists, and DIY enthusiasts,” he said.
The location was strategically chosen to be right by the University of Washington’s Tacoma campus so that the educational community can take advantage of the FabLab’s digital fabrication equipment, classes, and prototyping services.
The FabLab (which is listed here on 1ookGarages.com) has put together a really nice promotional piece for their website:
Tibbitts noted that the FabLab serves the community in a number of different ways. “We’ve been a hub for entrepreneurs to learn the equipment, make connections with other designer/makers, and having made connections here, they go on to start up small businesses. We’re a location for classes of the University of Washington. A professor there teaches “How to Make Almost Anything” (which is an off-shoot of the same class that had its start at MIT), and also a senior-year Projects class.”
The FabLab also is home to local FIRST Robotics clubs. “It’s been exciting to watch this blossom during the summers,” said Stephen. “We’ll host summer day camps here, and the High School age robotics kids will teach Lego robot camps for middle schoolers. There’s a lot of natural mentorship, and a lot of fun.”
Some of the businesses that have launched here at FabLab Tacoma include:
Laser Goodies, a company specializing in laser engraving products for customers, Vanguard, an event design company for Fortune 500 companies, and the Black Anchor Collective that does leather working and makes unique fashion goods…
Stephen noted that their membership business model requires constant attention, as members often move on after getting their start using the digital fabrication equipment and taking classes at the FabLab. “We have implemented other services that round out our income stream, such as providing fabrication services to people who aren’t necessarily interested in doing the work themselves. We also have become a reseller of 3D printing tools to local schools.”