Fab Lab El Paso offers creative outlet in new makerspace

Fab Lab El Paso offers creative outlet in new makerspace

Imagine a place where you could design, build and then even manufacture your own invention -- a laboratory of fabrication. Well, that's the idea behind Fab Lab El Paso.

“In El Paso, the closest maker’s space was Albuquerque, and we wanted to change that," said Fab Lab co-founder Cathy Chen.

Chen and her husband, Gustavo Arriaga, co-founded the nonprofit that recently celebrated its third anniversary. The two met at Duke University. After moving back to Gustavo's hometown, the couple decided to create a space where people could bring their ideas to life.

“The idea really that birthed the Fab Lab was that anyone can make almost anything using a set of simple tools like 3-D printing, laser cutting, CNC machining, a simple electronics bench,” Chen said.

Fab Lab recently relocated to the city's new Artspace Lofts in downtown El Paso. It's part of a global Fab Lab network that gives everyday people the tools and education to build on computer-controlled machines like these.

“One of our primary mission is to show people how digital tools can make their traditional handicrafts simpler and more efficient,” said Chen.

So for a monthly fee of $50, people have access to laser cutters and 3-D printers and the collective expertise of the maker community.

“It’s cool because you have equipment here that would be expensive to buy on your own and for a monthly fee you can use it," said Esteban Herrera, a mechanical engineering student at UTEP who works at Fab Lab El Paso. “It can bring out people’s creativity in a really cool way and instead of sending your design to a manufacturer you can manufacture it here yourself."

Chen says Fab Lab El Paso is still growing into its new space. It will eventually include a cafe and with workshops and special events, Chen hopes the community will continue to explore the possibilities of creative collaboration.

“Again it points back to this accessibility and democratization that we want to see happen on the border with regards to digital fabrication,” she said.

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