Editor’s note: Madison Worthy and Miriam Engle biked across Europe, where they visited different Makerspaces, and filmed Self-Made, a documentary about their adventure and the Makers they met. You can find a list of installments chronicling their journey at the end of this article.
On our 3,000 km bicycle journey across Europe to visit as many fab labs and makerspaces as we could, there was no shortage of interesting Makers to meet or projects to gawk at. Here are eight of the coolest projects we saw during our trip.
A Biomimetic Speaker
At our second stop along our bike tour in Næstved, we picked up a project that would accompany us across three borders, all the way to Belgium. FabLab Danmark operates out of a strange bean of a building, partially insulated by seaweed. Their unique speaker is constructed out of alternating sheaves of laser cut wood and plastic that stack to resemble the inner ear. When we assembled it — nonfunctioning — for the first time in Næstved, we had no idea that it would inspire so much curiosity. Kaasfabriek fairly tore it apart before they got it working and put it back together with zip ties, and ZB45 Makerspace had a go at it too. Ultimately, the wood proved not quite up to the task of surviving the humidity of an outdoor existence on bike tour, so we gave it away for further tinkering to a member of Timelab in Gent.
Quadcopters from the ground up
When we visited FabLab Lübeck, it was just starting out in an industrial area on the outskirts of the walled Medieval German city. At the time, they had an enormous CNC machine, a particular passion for quadcopters, and were searching for members. Founder and manager Alexander Mildner has experienced so much success “in quadcopter issues” that FabLab Lübeck will offer a build-your-own-quadcopter workshop, where participants will fully develop and manufacture their own machines.
3D Printed 35mm Film Projector
At FabLab Bremen, we met Florian Lütkebohmert who designed and built his own projector using 35mm film. “It’s just one of my favorite things,” Florian told us, “using old analog film brought into a self-made projection system. I built it for a course at the school of art here in Bremen. Since I had an old camera flash lying around and my lens just broke, I figured maybe I could combine the two. Basically, the entire piece is 3D prints and laser cut parts. I tried to find out how those projectors work and to replicate them for as little money as possible. It’s completely open source and available on YouMagine and Thingiverse if anyone wants to make it better.”
Winand Slingenbergh of FabLab Groningen in the Netherlands designed and built LaserMaze, an exciting game that imitates the kind of laser security system found in heist movies. Using Arduino, augmented laser pointers, and a smoke machine, LaserMaze can transform any shipping container or hallway into a practice course for aspiring special agents. The open source project is constantly evolving; find it on GitHub.
Using Lotion as Filament
In the company of Bart Bakker, we visited Protospace near Utrecht, which Bart helped found. Protospace is well known as the birthplace of the first ever Ultimaker and for its democratic user fees: keep your work open source and the Fab Lab is free to use, or maintain proprietary rights and pay for your time. While we were there we met an intern from the Eindhoven University of Technology who called himself Taco. Taco was working on an industrial design project, visiting Protospace to learn techniques for rapid prototyping. With a 3D printer, he was attempting to print Nivea cream in such a way to replicate the cartilage of the human ear. Though he admitted he still had a long way to go to find the right consistency, he was very enthusiastic.
Open Source Shoes
At Timelab in Gent we met Eugenia Morpurgo, an Italian designer who has created Another Shoe, open source shoes that anyone can make and maintain with a laser cutter and simple materials, such as leather. For Eugenia, it’s not just about the shoe: “We are also trying to figure out how we can make it a physical, practical business just really of shoe production, and how we can bring the shoes in regular street shops, to kind of bridge this gap there is between the people that are very involved in the Maker movement and just regular customers.”
During our visit to iMAL of Brussels, we found the Fab Lab engaged with an art exhibit titled Anarchronism, highlighting the relationship between technology and memory. Many of the artists featured in the exhibit used the Fab Lab to create their pieces, which question whether digital technology is as permanent as it claims. iMAL is often involved in hosting art exhibits which explore the topic of cultural heritage in the digital age.
At LabSUD in Montpellier we met Aurélien Bontemps, who builds his own guitars at the Fab Lab. Lab manager Jean-Philippe Civade surprised us with a concert on Aurélien’s first Fab-finished guitar. “Usually I work more traditionally, but with Fab Lab and the opportunities in the Fab Lab it takes less time to do what I have to do. It’s the first time I used laser cutting for the engraved name,” Aurélien said through an interpreter. “I hope to do many more things with the machines here in the Fab Lab.”