Of course, 3D printers are not at the reach of most of us. They are simply the inventions to be admired in such exemplary spaces as FACT Liverpool, right? Well, you may not know it, but hackspaces are springing up everywhere, and we are very fortunate to have such a facility right in the heart of Liverpool. “Rewind, hackspace, you say?” Hackspace is a term for a place where people can “make” or “hack” using tools and equipment that might be steep to purchase for the average wage-earner, not to mention where would you put everything? Fortunately, communal hack spaces just like DoES Liverpool have been set up to build on the tech community and encourage a spirit of “making”, taking care of the practicalities of purchasing and hosting large and expensive equipment. All that’s left for you to do is come along to a Maker Day/Night (http://DoES Liverpool.com/calendar/) or pay just £5 for access to the workshop for a few hours (http://DoES Liverpool.com/laser-cutting-workshop/). DoES Liverpool was conceived circa 2008, when 3D printers were something only the early adopters of technology would have been aware of. Adrian and Ross started DoES Liverpool using the facilities of Liverpool John Moores Design Academy, moving soon afterwards to their first proper home in Duke Street, from which they were later evicted. Luckily, this was not the end as they were able to secure new accommodation in Gostins Building, Hanover Street, their current home. If you know such jargon as “Arduino”, “G-Code” and “PLA” then you’ll be right at home in a hack space. For those that don’t, take comfort. First of all, I am NOT going to use these words, and secondly, if you want to know more, there are people you can ask who are more than happy to share their knowledge. So what exactly can you expect to find in a hackspace? The 3D Printer Let’s get it out of the way, I know you’re dying to know more – There is not one, but three 3D printers, a homage to the history and development of 3D printing, the latest and favourite being the Ultimate 2 Extended. These devices create your object in PLA, a type of plastic. If you are comfortable with software such as “Cura”, then you are good to go. For the rest of us, it may take some learning and trialling of basic shapes before you’re ready for your imagination to take flight. That’s where the Ross and Adrian can offer their expertise.
The Laser Cutter This machine enables you to produce a remarkable array of designs simply by cutting shapes from Perspex. These products are easier on the eye than PLA printouts in my humble opinion. You will require an induction to make use of this piece of apparatus, which can be done during a Maker Night, or you can book an hour’s one-to-one tutorial to cover all the necessary health and safety training. (https://doeslaserinductions.youcanbook.me/) The vacuum former, soldering irons and…hair straighteners? Vacuum formers are standard to anyone who has studied Design Technology at school, and great for giving curves to flat plastic using moulds. Soldering irons and solder are readily available to use on the premises. Besides these extremely useful and commonplace tools, you will find a wealth of more unusual objects, often donated by members of the community, such as my particular favourite, a hand-held device that bends plastic in a straight line. It looks like a pair of hair straighteners, but in fact it does the opposite: it kinks plastic and is perfect for Perspex jewellery making. For the record, it is never to be used on your hair. Why bother with a hack space? So, say you have a generously-proportioned garage, a lot of disposable income and you can easily accommodate large machinery in your home? Say this is the situation for most of us (It really isn’t, but let’s suspend our disbelief!), why would you bother visiting a hackspace like DoES? I made it my mission to find out from DoES regulars themselves. Besides the excellent tools on offer, DoES provides a great atmosphere. It’s a social space with many familiar faces with similar interests who can offer support and volunteer their expertise as well as providing the opportunity to engage in collaborative projects. Sharing a space with other “makers” can open the doors to even more ideas than you would have had if you had stayed at home. And who knows, you may pick up another skill you’d never even contemplated.
To learn skills such as coding and finding out new ways to “hack”, check out the events and courses coming up in FACTLab.