When a single printer turns into a lab

Today students at University of Southern Denmark have the opportunity to use 3D printers, laser cutters, VR and a lot more technical equipment, when becoming members of Development Laboratory, DevLab. But it has not always been this way

By Kamilla Kilias

In the beginning of 2013 3D printing patents became available. That created and developed several startup companies, who began to offer desktop 3D printers at an affordable price. It quickly came to some of the students’ attention at Product Development and Innovation, PDI. They then informed their study-leader, Søren Jensen.

“The Students in the Center”
University of Southern Denmark had in the same time period established a fund entitled “The Students in the Center”, whose aim was to improve the study environment at the university. It turned out to be a perfect coincidence and nonetheless the beginning of DevLab:

“We searched the fund for money to the first couple of 3D printers. Afterwards we putted the funded printers in a group room, where the students had access to work with the printers as they wanted – both for their own project and for study-related project”, says Søren Jensen and adds that it primarily was a class of the PDI students, who used the printers in the beginning.

DevLab’s development
After a few months, some of these students got the idea that it would be pleasant to have a place at the Faculty of Engineering where they could work and practice with the machines and create new ideas. Christian Hammerich, who is a teacher at PDI and a part of today’s DevLab, describes the laboratories development:

“They sought Department of Technology and Innovation for a room and a little start money, so they could take it even further and extend what they already had.”

Their wishes came true, and the students chose to call their new room for Development Lab, today known as DevLab.

The vision of Devlab was to give the students access to new prototype technologies whenever they wanted, so they could learn how to use and handle the machines and furthermore commit themselves to a lab. It all became a reality as the lab grew:

“We kept searching for money to other machines, which we implemented along the way. It all turned into the machine-park Devlab is today”, Søren Jensen says.

Today’s DevLab
Today DevLab is a student-driven prototype-lab with the purpose to enhance the students tool box within prototyping technologies. It has turned into an organization that every student at the university can be a part of by signing up and paying an entry fee.

One of DevLabs technical advisors Simon Bruhn explains, why the lab has a special meaning for the users:

“DevLab is a place where you can meet people with common interest. You can ask for advice and learn from other members.”

He furthermore adds where the responsibility lays:

“It is the members own responsibility to be skilled in the specific technology and machines. This way they accomplish both knowledge and technical flair.”

This is made possible by making the machines available and by offering courses for the members, so they can get the basic information they need before starting on their own. This way they are insured knowledges to handle the machines safely and without destroying it.

The lab is constantly developing. Soon it will move to a new and bigger area. The new lab will include a work area, where it will be possible to hang out and network with the fellow members. The new space will furthermore include better security facilities, which opens for new exiting technologies and overall gives the lab a lot more
options in the future.