Engineering Alumnus Cheyney Starts S.T.E.A.M. Room Fab Lab Making a Difference in Iowa City

Friday, July 4, 2014

“Our parents and our grandparents created the world’s largest economy and strongest middle class not by buying stuff, but by building stuff -- by making stuff, by tinkering and inventing and building; by making and selling things first in a growing national market and then in an international market -- stuff “Made in America.” President Barack Obama at the first-ever White House Maker Faire, June 18, 2014

The S.T.E.A.M. Room Fab Lab, a “maker space” in Iowa City founded by Engineering alumnus Kirk Cheyney (BSE 2011 biomedical engineering), is making the latest in digital manufacturing technology available to area makers for the first time. The maker space has won a contest from Chicago-based Inventables to receive a free 3D carving machine, a new technology like 3D printing that is revolutionizing the way physical objects are designed and manufactured.

3D carving, also commonly known as a CNC milling, is a powerful technology capable of creating precision parts and designs from real materials like wood and metal, unlike consumer-grade 3D printers which can only use strands of plastic to create objects.

The types of projects that can be made using this technology include wood furniture, aluminum machine parts, and electronic circuit boards, to name a few.

The S.T.E.A.M. Room is modeled after the Fabrication Laboratory model developed by MIT. The space offers classes in electronics, programming, robotics, and digital fabrication. Tools available include the 3D Carving machine, 3D printers, a full wood shop, metal shop, welding equipment and more.

Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan: “We believe that to ignite the digital manufacturing revolution, we need to provide free access to these important 3D carving tools to as many people as possible.”

The machines work with Inventables’ free software Easel to allow anyone to go from idea to making in 5 minutes without any specialized knowledge or training. Inventables hopes that access to a free machine and free software will help reboot American manufacturing education, and allow people to start their own small-scale manufacturing businesses in the United States.

Inventables has given away 50 of these machines across the United States to community gathering places where people with an interest in learning and technology can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge.

Small businesses that manufacture physical products are a quickly growing sector of the American economy. The Internet of Things and the larger umbrella of Digital Manufacturing are being driven forward by low-cost digital manufacturing tools being more widely available to the general public.

Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan: “The majority of net new jobs come from startups and small businesses. These 3D carving machines present the opportunity for America to get back into manufacturing with a business model that makes sense in the new economy.”About Inventables

Founded  in  2002,  Inventables’  mission  is  to  ignite  the  digital  manufacturing  revolution  by simplifying  the  path  from  idea  to  finished  product.  Recognized  as  the  hardware store  for designers,  Inventables  sells  desktop  manufacturing  machines  and  thousands  of  materials  in small quantities for makers working on their ideas. Their online store can be found at inventables.com

More info about The S.T.E.A.M. Room Fab Lab can be found at http://www.thesteamroom.org/

The S.T.E.A.M. Room Fab Lab is located at 1660 Sycamore St in Iowa City.

See related Corridor Business Journal story at http://www.corridorbusiness.com/news/fab-lab-to-fill-empty-von-maur-space/.