HAMILTON – The Bitterroot Fabrication Laboratory has opened its doors at 404 S. First St. in Hamilton. The Bitterroot Fab Lab is made possible by a generous contribution from the Rob and Terry Ryan Foundation and will be operated through the Advanced Manufacturing program at Bitterroot College University of Montana.
The Bitterroot Fab Lab offers a space to create, learn, mentor, play and invent for two main purposes: to enhance academic training in advanced technologies and to encourage entrepreneurial activity in the Bitterroot Valley and Western Montana. Classes in 3D printing, laser engraving, electronic prototyping robotics and embedded programming will be offered. A membership model will allow local inventors, designers and entrepreneurs to use the facility.
Recently, the Bitterroot Fab Lab was awarded a $7,000 grant through the Educational Development and Stimulus Fund to purchase a DI Wire machine and CNC milling machine. These pieces of equipment will add to current facilities, which include 3D printers, a laser engraver, robotic milling machine capable of making circuit boards and a suite of robotics programming tools.
The fab lab concept originated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms, which sought to extend its research into creating physical objects with computer-based tools to help local business development. Since the first fab lab was created at MIT in 2009, over 500 have been established in the United States and abroad. The Bitterroot Fab Lab is a member of the U.S. Fab Lab Network and is part of a larger effort to bring leading technology to the Bitterroot Valley.