The last few Wednesday mornings I’ve swung by Place de la Gare to visit the recently-opened Fab Lab in Neuchâtel. Here’s a quick video description of what Fab Labs are about (and here’s their charter):
I was new to the concept of Fab Labs, but was excited to find out one now exists here (thankfully my wife listens to local radio! ;-). I’ve been jealous of my US-based Autodesk colleagues who have access to the excellent TechShop (Autodesk employees get free membership, which is a pretty fantastic benefit if you have one nearby). Having a Fab Lab nearby at least means I’ll get to scratch the Maker itch I’ve had, of late.
One of the reasons Autodesk originally set up shop in this region is its deep technical heritage: for those of you who aren't aware, the canton of Neuchâtel is considered the birthplace of the Swiss watch-making industry. If you ever visit, be sure to check out the Jaquet-Droz automata, the inspiration for the automaton in the movie Hugo.
Given this heritage, it makes sense that there are a number of very highly-rated academic institutions in the area, including the Haute Ecole Arc, which has sponsored the creation and running of the Fab Lab. Their curricula presumably focus more on precision engineering and micro-electronics than watch-making, specifically, but it's certainly at their roots.
Our local Fab Lab understandably doesn’t have the same level of equipment a typical TechShop does, but it does have some interesting – and useful – machinery. For instance, see below: there’s a laser cutter, with a laser-cut wine bottle holder (Neuchâtel is also a wine-making region, of course :-), and an Ultimaker 3D printer (other 3D printer purchases are planned, apparently).
It being a creative space, some of the products (and offcuts) were on display, too:
One of the managers of the Fab Lab, Gaetan Bussy, was hard at work helping prototype an electrolytic pen to be used for art restoration.
I’m planning to head back to the Fab Lab during the coming weeks: it seems like a great environment for me to spend some time on my “Kinect for ZX Spectrum” integration. :-)