Champaign-Urbana Community Fab(ulous) Lab

Last week we had the opportunity to visit the Champaign-Urbana Community Fabrication Lab! My first thought as I entered the building was why was this resource was so far away from most of campus! It’s located right by the ACES library so it is a little bit away from where I would’ve thought most students would want to use.

When I entered the lab, I was immediately struck but how… start-up-y it looked. There were design elements all over the room. We started the class with an introduction to the mission of the fab lab. Apparently there are resources like this all over.


The foundation of the lab is built on 4 core principles: art, education, research, and entrepreneurship. It is a “makerspace” workshop space with the resources and capabilities to complete rapid prototyping and computer-based design work. The employees and volunteers are open-source “Makers” (us!) that work to turn an idea to a real, tangible piece of product. The lab is open to the pubic and welcomes staff, volunteers, students, and people in the Champaign-Urbana area to learn and create. Its a multi-disciplinary workspace from inspiration to iteration.

Walkthrough of the Lab: 

As I was walking through the lab, my eyes lit up by everything I saw. I couldn’t believe a resource existed like this on campus and wasn’t advertised more. I’m so sad I saw this on my last semester on campus! I would have loved to explore this community more but I’ll make the most of my semester now.

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You walk in and you’re immediately greeted with the variety of tools and applications. You can literally make anything you want in this place! The world is your oyster 🙂

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Next week, we get to play with the lasers! The lasers allow cutting of plastics and into pieces of glass like the photo on the right.

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There is a room for electronics where we will spend a week learning about arduinos.

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There is also a section of the room that I spent this week on. It was focused on digital embroidery. To the left is a project that an art student is working on. To the right is a photo of a bad that has solar panels placed in. The solar panels allow for a phone to be charged straight from the bag! Apparently, Kate Spade is also launching a bag similar to this model. How cool is this?! Could be great for campers.

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These two photos are of a sticker machine inside the fabrication lab. The top photo is entirely made of stickers.


Digital Embroidery Lesson:


For this week, we used open source software and edited an image to be embroidered. I choose an adorable sushi picture I found off the internet! What the open source software allows is for you to blend colors out so you aren’t left with too many different threads. Each color left in this image represents a color of thread. My sushi picture had 6.


Then we saved the image on the flash drive and hooked up the sewing machine to a computer with the flash drive saved. These sewing machines automatically loaded the image and each color was printed as a layer. All I had to do was load the thread color I wanted. First color was white.


Second layer was the body of the shrimp sushi! A orange thread was used.


3rd layer was the pink cheeks and 4th layer was the avocado green filling inside the sushi roll. This 5th layer was the dark green seaweed body (this picture above).


The final layer and color was the black outline around the entire sushi and the eyeballs. Interestingly enough, if the line is too thin, this sewing machine has a really hard time printing really exact lines. Text can be really hard for this machine to print, so the advisors said shy away from too thin of lines.

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The software also allows you the pick how the thread is layered (the texture and the fill amount). In the end, this is how my final produce looked like, and I was so happy!


I always forget that this class is about so much more than 3D printing. It is about promoting the idea of “making” as a design process and emphasizing the use of rapid protoyping. I am truly astounded to see how technology can be used to design quick, efficient prototypes. I am amazed at the incredible resources we have on campus. I am delighted that the students get a chance to learn from these incredible “Makers” in this community. I just wish that more students could see this opportunity and create something they truly enjoy as well.

One thought on “Champaign-Urbana Community Fab(ulous) Lab

  1. Again, great post and takeaways! I agree, the maker scene is so much more than 3D printing, which is sometimes hard to remember because our predominant exposure so far has been to the 3d printing

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