Prototyping platform boosts creativity and entrepreneurship in west Netherlands

A project based in the Dutch city of Utrecht has helped students, designers and entrepreneurs bring their ideas and concepts to life. ProtoSpace FabLab has established itself as a prototyping platform that provides access to high-tech equipment like 3D printers. More than 25 start-up companies and around 250 students have used the FabLab to help realise their goals.

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In addition to 3D-printing machines, FabLab is equipped with an array of flexible computer-controlled tools. © Creative Commons In addition to 3D-printing machines, FabLab is equipped with an array of flexible computer-controlled tools. © Creative Commons

" In the FabLab, future professionals are trained in prototyping with pleasure and passion. This can be done in methodology or with the use of machines, digital design and programming. As one of the students put it: ‘How much fun it can be to play with electronics’. "

Mieke Cornet de Vries, EU Funds communications, Municipality of Rotterdam

FabLab was one of the first initiatives in the Netherlands to develop open-source innovation and provide access to digital fabrication technologies. The aim is to be able to make almost anything as a prototype in areas such industrial or product design, mechatronics, embedded software and electrical engineering.

Cutting-edge equipment

In addition to increasingly popular 3D-printing machines, FabLab is equipped with an array of flexible computer-controlled tools such as:

  • a sign cutter that plots in copper to make antennas and flexible circuits
  • a high-resolution milling machine that makes circuit boards and precision parts
  • a large wood router for building furniture
  • a suite of electronic components for on-site rapid prototyping.

Through the project, two lab managers were made available five days a week to provide advice and guidance about using the tools and on the technical progress of designs. In addition, FabLab now offers training courses on the use of its equipment to students that come from across the world.

ProtoSpace was established in 2008 and is currently housed at the Hogeschool Utrecht (Institute of Engineering and Design). As a result, large-scale innovation and research projects are being further developed.

 

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “ProtoSpace FabLab” is EUR 1 300 000, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 500 000 through the “West Netherlands” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Research and innovation”.

 

Draft date

29/11/2019