MadLab, FabLab

In April, one of Manchester’s most famous Community tech groups opens its FabLab in the City. What can you expect from Manchester’s newest makerspace? We were privileged to take a look behind the scenes and truly sample the space by working there for an afternoon.

MadLab’s fablab: stations and the laser cutter on the right.

by Ethar Alali

Manchester’s Digital Laboratory, also known as MadLab, has been providing the Manchester digital tech communities a place to work, collaborate and digitally solve, for several years. From it’s humble offices on Edge Street, in Manchester’s Norther Quarter, the unassuming building has become home to dozens of tech events every single week, showcasing some of Manchester’s innate creative flair.

After completing their main multi-million pound refurbishment two years ago, Rachael, Claire, Asa and the team are turning their attention to physical makes, by opening a shiny new makerspace right next door.

Underneath the previous home of the old hackspace, the team at Madlab have been secretly beavering away behind the scenes to put together the next part of their community offer.

First Impressions

Yesterday I had the great please of working within the space with Kennedy, last year’s intern, on his first commercial freelance piece of work for us. Kit, boards, components and solder in hand, we headed on up and it more than proved its worth.

Entering the space you’re first struck with… well… the space. In the centre, a bank of desks togther in boardroom configuration. On your left, the fabrication stations, numbered for identification and equipped with all you’d need.

Fully Featured

The space boasts an electronics station, with the usual soldering equipment, snips and stands but also a reflow hot plate, for those using surface mount components. The FabLab also houses Madlab’s iconic laser cutter, fabrication equipment and several types of material. Uniquely, it also houses biotech equipment, including farm and fridges, allowing those in the biotech space a place to conduct basic experiments and store them safely away. As “rustic” as a lot of community groups can be, Madlab have been working closely with the Health and Safety Executive in the North West of England to ensure users of the space are kept out of harms way.

We certainly don’t expect the environment to look as clean once the wave of Manchester’s tech community hits it after it’s launch date 20th April 2017. The lab provided us with everything we needed, organised, within easy reach, and we even finished early. 5 circuits, boards drilled, built and soldered from scratch.

Kennedy busy beavering away on station 2. My space on the left is empty because I’m… well… the boss.

Space for Space

One community group using the space is Manchester’s Space Programme…

Yes we Manc’s have a space programme, but think balloons not rockets, until next week ;)…

Manchester Space Programme has been using the Fablab space for a while. It’s provided them with a space from which to work bus also the ability to start to make equipment, should they need it. Some of their paraphernalia adorns the right hand side as you walk in. Designing and building rockets combines so many parts of maker scenes, the FabLab provides an ideal place for them to build various contraptions.

Opening Night Awaits…

Manchester has become home to a network of different maker and tech resources. The FabLab both compliments and enhances offerings at Hackspace and Media City by putting a fully serviced space right in the heart of the city.

The FabLab formally opens it’s doors on the 20th April and with ultimately daily, monthly recurring and professional subscriptions for commercial groups (I’ve seen the numbers and they’re a bargain). Check out their membership page for full details. Who will be the first big thing to use the space? Well, naturally, we’re hoping it was us :)

Very best of luck to the folks at Madlab!

E


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