About 70 miles west of London, England lies the town of Swindon. This town, located in a borough that had 185,609 people populating it during the 2011 census, has a pleasant maritime climate with mild winters and cool summers. Considering how close it is to London, without the hectic pace of the big city, you can imagine that this would be a nice location for a Makerspace, right? That’s what Damian Axford, one of the new Makerspace founders, thought too. About 3.5 years ago, a Swindon Hackspace was founded, and it grew into a Makerspace over time with much community effort. Located at the BSS House complex in Cheney Manor, the facility is a workspace for creative technical types, and it is open 24 hours a day to accommodate the makers’ unconventional schedules, too.
The original Hackspace was based out of a room at the Museum of Computing, but it was difficult to accommodate people there due to the inconvenient times when the space could be open, and other details about the arrangements — like the fact that people couldn’t store their stuff on site. But, as usual, innovative makers rarely get discouraged by obstacles, and donations for a lease on a larger, more accommodating space began flowing in. It’s no surprise to hear that slowly the membership grew as people began to hear about the new space’s possibilities: who doesn’t want access to a Makerspace in their town?
Even the Mayor of Swindon expresses interest in the project. He attended a Makerspace open house in May, and from there, you can only imagine how interest grew. The 600-square-foot industrial unit is arranged in four reconfigurable zones, including crafts, wood, metal and digital fabrication. In the Craft zone, there are benches for light crafts like sewing, drawing, and painting, and computing/electronics equipment including radio control and modelling.
The wood-working area has flexible benches along with several power and hand tools like table saws, mitre saws, and jointer/thicknessers. The Metal-working area is equipped with tools such as a milling machine, lathe, bench grinder, and MIG welder, and the in the digital fabrication zone there’s testing and prototyping equipment, including a CNC Mill, PCB Mill, soldering equipment, oscilloscopes, and — our favorite — 3D printing capabilities.
Damian Axford summarizes the new Makerspace here:
“Imagine if you took all our workshops and sheds and combined them all in one building, this is what you’d get. Hopefully you’ve got about every tool you would want across a diverse range of disciplines — everything from computing to 3D printing to sewing, electronics, wood work and metal work.”
The 3D printers at the Makerspace have been outfitted with 3D printed parts made by members, and so far there’s a large emphasis in the space on robotics and 3D printing right now. This interest in 3D printing dwells alongside a wide range of interests expressed by members. Some members are interested in crafts, and there’s even a family farming alpacas. In one excellent case of cross-pollination, in the kind of project that makes spaces like Swindon’s Makerspace a great place to learn about what others are doing, there are people using 3D printer parts to spin yarn for knitting. Axford states that one day his son and a friend decided to spontaneously make some Star Wars Blasters — and the space gladly accommodated their wishes. A diverse range of possibilities, indeed!
This new Makerspace is great news for the people of Swindon, and a great boost for 3D printing in the London area! Have you seen anything like this in another similarly sized city? Discuss in the MakerSpace for Swindon forum thread over at 3DPB.com.