With the February 2016 opening of the Confluence Fab Lab in the former N.O. Nelson Manufacturing complex, the location is once again home to the constructive talents of the Edwardsville community. A Fab Lab (fabrication laboratory) is a workshop offering personal fabrication tools, equipment and training. Originally, fab labs began as outreach projects from MIT that have since spread to over 900 locations in nearly 100 countries. Each Fab Lab must meet strict requirements, but each lab is unique in that it can go beyond those requirements. The Confluence Fab Lab is hosted by Lewis and Clark Community College at the Historic N. O. Nelson Campus. A partial list of available work spaces and equipment/resources includes the following:
- Metalworking – metal lathes, milling machines, plasma metal cutter, welding
- Woodworking/Plastics – lathes, drill press, planers, table saw, bandsaw, joiner
- Electronics – soldering, oscilloscopes, breadboards, voltage meters, third hands
- Finishing/Painting– sand blasting, paint booth with hood, vinyl-sign cutter, laser engraver
- Computer Design – computer drafting and design, 3-D scanner, projector
- Assembly – two large workbenches, hand tools, vises, clamps
- Two desktop 3-D printers as well as two industrial 3-D printers.
- A full range of hand tools are available for checkout.
Currently, the Fab Lab is host to many entrepreneurs/hobbyists who use the area to design and craft their products. These include professional woodworkers constructing specialty furniture, SIUE students manufacturing struts for cars, robotics club members building robots for competition, artists creating metal sculptures and much more.
And, for those Leclaire homeowners looking to restore and repair their historic homes, the Fab Lab offers a full range of woodworking machines and wood production equipment. This equipment includes a computer-controlled table router/lathe that has been used to replicate wood components to match vintage parts. In addition, the lab is maintained by a full-time shop manager who can provide instruction in the use of equipment.
The lab is currently open Tuesday - Friday 2 p.m. – 9 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Tours are available Saturday mornings or by request. The phone number is 618-468-5941. Visit the web site at http://www.lc.edu/fablab/ for more information including membership rates.