Open Works looks to go 'full circle' with contract fabrication service - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Jul. 24, 2018 12:59 pm

Open Works looks to go ‘full circle’ with contract fabrication service

The Station North makerspace is growing in-house manufacturing.

Inside the Open Works ribbon-cutting, Sept. 20, 2016.

Photo by Stephen Babcock

Since opening in 2016, staff at Open Works have been focused on giving members of the Station North makerspace and others from community access to its tools.

But given their knowledge around the hardware, the team members were also asked whether they built projects for other businesses in-house.

Over time, enough demand emerged that an entrepreneurial instinct kicked in, and they decided to set aside space for contract manufacturing.

With backing from Stanley Black and Decker – both in funding and tools – as well as Whiting Turner, Open Works’ contract fabrication services recently got up and running in an area on the bottom floor of the massive makerspace in recent weeks.

According to Zach Adams, an industrial designer who recently came onboard to run the contract services operation, companies can turn to Open Works for design, fabrication, packaging and other services on an item. The space can offer CNC, 3D printing and design services, among other parts of the manufacturing process. Adams is joined by Harrison Tyler, Open Works’ Digital Operations Manager, and is looking to draw on the talents of the makerspace’s team to be able to “handle any kind of job that’s pitched at us,” Adams said.

When it comes to examples of work so far, Adams offered examples such as signage and furniture. Open Works is also working with Baltimore startup Pixilated to make its wall-mounted photo kiosk.

Recently, Open Works signed a contract to make stools with furniture seller Room & Board. Working with the U.S. Forest Service and a deconstruction arm of Baltimore-based social enterprise Humanim through the Urban Wood Project, the Minnesota-based company is creating furniture from wood that has been reclaimed from Baltimore rowhouses. The first production order is for more than 100 stools, made with wood from houses that might’ve been from a neighboring property.

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“To me it brings it full circle,” Adams said.

Open Works also hopes the business will help lead to more manufacturing jobs. The team is also introducing an apprenticeship within the contract manufacturing business, working with a graduate of the teen entrepreneurship program the space is running, according to General Manager Will Holman.

In that sense it fits with Open Works’ mission both to grow jobs and provide access to the tools and service that help businesses. On the floor above, the makerspace has 115 microstudios rented to growing companies. And there is a continuous flow of classes, as well as programs like the Moms as Entrepreneurs Maker Academy that offer business owners access to the tools.

“The number one mission we keep thinking about is how to make this place more radically accessible to people,” Holman said.

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