BY MICHAEL OSSORGUINE | In a space located above a West Village jazz club, members of the Fat Cat Fab Lab use nifty technologies to create fun and functional objects.
The so-called makerspace hosted a launch party in July to celebrate registering as a nonprofit. The occasion also marked the opening of their newly renovated space, once occupied by a gym, on the second floor of a building at the corner of W. Fourth and Christopher Sts.
Previously, the lab drew support from owners of the downstairs Fat Cat Jazz Club (hence, the name), who started it as a community project in 2013.
“It was pretty altruistic, what Fat Cat Jazz Club did,” said operations manager Peter Hartmann. “None of us work for Fat Cat, it’s all volunteer. We are our own entity now.
The nonprofit now serves close to 45 members and hosts weekly lessons and competitions to supplement their facilities.
Lab users create objects using 3D printers, laser printers and C.N.C. routers. They also have the opportunity to work with 3D imaging software, design programs like Adobe Illustrator, and microcontrollers — as well as participate in Fat Cat Fab Lab’s many events.
One of their latest events was a competition called Gamesmash, presented by the 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker and the software company MakerOS, to challenge participants to create their own tabletop games using some of the tech at the makerspace.
Getting in on all the action isn’t cheap. The cost of membership is $110 per month for hobbyists, and goes up to $220 for businesses, or $550 dollars for a membership that grants desk and storage space on top of access to all the tools in the lab.
However, access to the lab’s resources open up almost limitless creative possibilities. They also provide training so members can use the devices safely.
“If you made the mistake of using PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in the [laser cutter], it would release chlorine gas, which is extremely bad,” explained operations manager Peter Hartmann. “We have classes that we require to use the 3D printers, the laser cutter, or the C.N.C. router because there’s safety things that people need to know.”
But once members get the hang of things, they can get to work building fantastic objects. Member Howard Fink used a C.N.C. router to create an accurate moonscape using data of the moon’s topography.
First, Fink plugged data into 3D imaging software to create a 3D rendering of his moonscape. At Fat Cab Fab Lab, a program called Fusion 360 is often used. Fink then sent the file to the C.N.C. router, which cut away into a wood block until only the moonscape remained.
Other members are making more functional items.
Software engineer Landon Williams used an Arduino microcontroller to create automated blinds for his house, which faces the Hudson River. The system will use a light sensor to lower the blinds during certain times of day when the sun is especially bright. He used an Ultimaker 2+ printer to craft small pulleys for the contraption.
“We’re literally getting murdered by the sun,” said Williams. “My fiancé’s not tall enough to [pull the blinds] herself. She doesn’t know I’m doing this.”
Fat Cat Fab Lab also uses technology to unlock its doors via text message using their Arduino microchips. Programing everyday objects to communicate with other electronic devices like this is part of the concept called the “Internet of Things” the lab is promoting.
The lab is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.. Interested tech enthusiasts can also attend some of the events.
For more information, go to the lab’s website.