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May 4, 2016

New digital maker lab at the University of Wyoming has laser cutting and etching system



By Industrial Laser Solutions Editors

A new digital maker laboratory at the University of Wyoming (Laramie, WY), which includes laser cutting and etching capabilities, is set up to encourage multidisciplinary teams of students to brainstorm and generate creative research using emergent maker techniques, develop emerging technologies that will enhance existing creative practices, and gain a better overall understanding of how art and science can support each other.

Last fall, Brandon Gellis, an assistant professor in the University of Wyoming’s Department of Art and Art History, converted a conference room in the Visual Arts Building into a 300-sq-ft. digital maker and fabrication lab. The facility, known formally as the UW 3-D ArtScience and STEM Maker Laboratory, opened in October 2015 and already has been used by a number of researchers and students in three of Gellis’ classes: Graphic Design III: Branding in Virtual Spaces, Advanced Typography, and Computer Graphics II: Experiments in 3D Forms. Two student interns are learning hands-on approaches to digital making.

In addition to the laser cutting and etching system, the lab includes a large-format printer that is being converted to print out fabric textiles; two 3D printers that can be used for fabrication of teaching specimens and producing 3D modeled forms; two large-format photo printers; and a vinyl cutter, all of which are used for data visualization, fabrication, and creative research.

Gellis has bigger plans for the lab’s functionality and impact, as he is applying for a $150,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to fund more digital maker equipment. The funding, if secured, would pay for high-performance computers and software that will be powerful enough to generate complex 3D, virtual, and time-based models; a computer numeric-controlled (CNC) mill; a pair of high-resolution stereolithography 3D printers; stationary and portable 3D scanners; and a high-resolution digital microscope. Ultimately, the digital maker lab is intended to be made available to collaborators and students.

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