This past week I spoke at the UWM Digital Future Campus Summit about the DCRL. It was a great opportunity to share information about what we used Digital Future initiative money to fund as well as to share information about the lab to the UWM community. The UWM Provost and many other University officials were in attendance.
My talk is as follows:
My name is Frankie Flood and I am an associate professor in Art and Design. I am the founder of UWM’s Digital Craft Research Lab. In my research I have been interested in exploring the social implications of modern utilitarian objects and the effects of digital technology in the design and creation of those objects. Computers are already used to automatically manufacture objects and products, and in the future computers will be capable of creating complete systems with no limit to complexity. The inputs to these fabrication systems will be raw materials and simple data.
The Digital Craft Research Lab’s goal is to foster innovative, creative research in the areas of design, craft, and art by combining advanced digital technology with traditional craft practice in an effort to educate students for the future. The DCRL fosters interdisciplinary design research, material research, and innovation through making. It is envisioned as a facilitator for partnerships between UWM researchers and regional businesses, nonprofits, arts organizations, other universities and schools.
The Digital Future Grant has allowed me to further the mission of the Digital Craft Research Lab by securing 3d modeling software as well as additional digital fabrication equipment that can be used to teach students at UWM about the latest in 3D digital information, design and manufacturing. With this disruptive technology our students will lead the current digital revolution that is occurring through the making of 3Dimensional objects.
The advent of personal fabrication equipment has given individuals the ability to create their own products by designing things with 3D modeling software or by simply downloading a digital file. The decentralization of production tools have caused a change in the way products are purchased, and this is just the beginning of this digital revolution. Some of the tools responsible for this new age are laser cutters, vinyl cutters, desktop CNC mills, 3D printers, and 3D scanners. I developed two new courses in the Department of Art and Design that focus on the use of digital technology to create functional objects.
My students are currently building their own 3D printers or personal fabricators from scratch. Using a printer that I built, my students are printing components for and creating machines that can create other 3D printers or produce products that they design.
Makerbot Industries in New York City created a website called Thingiverse where anyone can download files for 3 dimensional objects very much in the same way that a song can be downloaded from iTunes except the files are free and open source. We currently have a UWM DCRL Thingiverse Site where students upload their unique functional designs for others around the world to download and print and put into use. UWM Art and Design students are also creating designs for things such as furniture that can be mass produced using the tools that we have available in the DCRL.
The DCRL recently hosted Milwaukee’s first 3D Printing Meetup where attendees shared their interest in the world-changing opportunities that 3D printing presents and UWM’s Digital Craft Research Lab also co-hosted a non-conference on 3D printing at Sector 67 Makerspace in Madison where several students and professors from the Milwaukee and Madison campuses were presenters on various digital technology topics involving additive manufacturing.
In our lab, we are currently developing new designs for larger and cheaper to build DIY 3D printers. Through the use of digital fabrication and technology, students working in the DCRL will continue to design and create objects that solve difficult problems in an ever-changing world and their designs will be able to reach new parts of the globe through file sharing sites such as Thingiverse.
Our government is investing $1 billion in additive manufacturing (3D printing) technology through the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, as this will give our nation a competitive edge in the manufacturing sector. It is my hope that with the education that we are providing students here at UWM that we will provide Milwaukee with the ability to regain it’s manufacturing roots. UWM Art and Design students and professors understands that these Meetups and digital technology courses will shape the future, and that our students will have a part in shaping Milwaukee’s destiny.
Thank you to the Digital Future Initiative for helping to fund the further development of educational and research opportunities at the Digital Craft Research Lab.