Arts / Guest posts

Why Brooklyn is bound to lead the country’s maker movement

There is no better location for the exploration and growth of digital fabrication than Brooklyn. Here's why

Some MakerBots. (Photo by Flickr user Matt Westervelt, used under a Creative Commons license)
This is a guest post from Blair Gardner, a cofounder of 3d NYC Lab, a digital fabrication center near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Digital fabrication is leading the charge in a growing national movement of makers. After a generation of advancing scalable software, we’re seeing a return to an appreciation for physical things.

Digital fabrication is the perfect unity of the software we know now and resurgent American manufacturing. It can allow you to take any design you might have in your head, and use automated tools to turn that design into a physical object. Popular examples include 3D printing, laser cutting and CNC milling.

There is no better location for the exploration and growth of digital fabrication than Brooklyn.

  • Our roots as a manufacturing hub means we have the physical real estate to house these efforts.
  • Our proximity to the city-wide tech fixation has meant a new attraction of talent to New York, many of whom call Brooklyn home.
  • Makerbot Industries, the most recognizable brand in desktop 3D printing, was founded in Brooklyn.
  • Shapeways, the largest provider of international 3D printing services, has a large fabrication warehouse just across the way in Long Island City, Queens.
  • There are hackerspaces outfitted with digital fabrication equipment and experts such as Alpha One Labs, NYC Resistor and 3D NYC Lab, which I cofounded.
  • Early next year, The Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator will open with a digital fabrication lab available to Accelerator members and the larger Brooklyn community. Look too at the Pratt production facility.
  • There is a whole class of Brooklyn startup springing up around the idea of physical fabricated products.

Even with all these great resources, the largest opportunity Brooklyn has in digital fabrication is its residents. Creative minds of all types and across almost every discipline call Brooklyn their home.

Digital fabrication is the perfect process to allow them to explore that creativity. With computer aided design (CAD) software and the right training or guidance, you can create a digital model of almost anything you can imagine. Once your object has been properly modeled you can use any of the above resources to have it fabricated.

One of our clients, Francis Bitonti, perfectly exemplifies this spirit. He worked with Shapeways to design a gown that was fabricated using 3D printing processes. It consisted of nearly 3000 uniquely articulated joints and was custom fit for Dita Von Teese. Without modern digital fabrication processes this would have been nearly impossible. It’s a novel example of how great designers using digital modeling and fabrication can push the boundaries of existing industry standards.

But digital fabrication isn’t just for 3D printing dresses.

Artists use laser cutting for custom stencils, patterns and textures that would otherwise take them hundreds of hours to create. Jewelry designers 3D print prototypes of incredibly intricate pieces that can then be used to create casts using the lost wax process. We have worked with industrial designers such as Alvaro Uribe who are rethinking the way we interact with everyday objects like wine glasses.

The opportunities for digital fabrication are only limited by creativity. Thankfully, creative people are in no short supply in Brooklyn. In the coming months and years it will be fascinating the innovations in art, fashion and design brought about by Brooklyn’s new found interest in digital fabrication.

Companies: NYC Resistor / Alpha One Labs / 3D NYC Lab / Pratt Institute / MakerBot
Series: Brooklyn

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