By Emma Forster
“Technology to me has always been about empowering people and accessibility. A maker-space shifts the relationship between the consumer and the producer because more people are craving authenticity and a hands on tactile experience.” — Hans Chang, CEO, FAB9.
On the ground floor of The Dream Factory in Footscray, there’s a flurry of activity taking place. There’s been a shroud of secrecy about what’s going on down there for some months now, and it’s getting closer to being revealed.
Built in the early 1900s, the former Barnett Glass Rubber factory is an architectural landmark with strong connections to Australia’s manufacturing history. Located on the banks of the Maribyrnong river, this iconic Footscray building has a colourful history.
Most recently it was the global headquarters of travel publisher Lonely Planet and since their departure it has been aptly renamed The Dream Factory. It’s now home to Inspire9 co-working, Engineers Without Borders and Cohealth – and more to be unveiled.
The Internet and the proliferation of digital fabrication technologies have empowered people to become makers and creators. This shift re-imagines how we make things by changing our relationship to production through advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and smart machines.
Imagine a place where you can turn your ideas into tangible objects. A place where you can physically create a product, prototype and test it. A place where you can access tools, technology and training to bring objects to life. Enter FAB9, a maker-space empowering people to invent world-changing products.
Maker-spaces come in all different shapes and sizes, and whilst they are most commonly associated with using technology to create and design, generally it’s a place where people with shared interests can gather to work on creative projects. Sharing ideas, equipment, materials, resources and knowledge is encouraged. It’s community driven collaboration on steroids.
In this particular instance, FAB9 provides tools, technology, and training for anyone interested in making; think wood-working equipment, a CNC router, laser cutters and 3D printers to name a few of the machines and tools on hand. There will be five different labs under one roof including a digital fabrication lab, a CNC lab, a timber shop, a metal shop and an electronics lab.
If you’re an established or emerging hardware-head, designer, technologist, entrepreneur, artist or craftsperson, or just someone wanting to experiment, tinker and explore through the making of physical objects, then read on.
FAB9 is the brainchild of three maker-creators: Nathan Sampimon, Evan Malone and Hans Chang.
Hans Chang, the CEO of FAB9, is responsible for the management, business strategy and growth of the company. Nathan Sampimon is an angel investor and founder of the Inspire9 the original community-driven co-working network, one of the largest-of-its-kind in Australia. Evan Malone is founder and president of NextFab, a for-profit social enterprise which comprises of a network of maker-spaces providing direct access to advanced manufacturing technology, training, product development services, and a hardware startup accelerator.
The two driving forces behind the scenes and on the ground here in Melbourne, Hans Chang and his colleague Ying Zhang, are bringing FAB9 to life, with a high appreciation and respect for design in the process.
‘Design’s a culture, it’s not just a thing that you can see and touch, it’s actually the things that are hidden behind and underpin it’ says Hans. They both believe that the tension between engineering and design is at the core of FAB9, with Ying being an architect and Hans an engineer, it’s something they grapple with everyday.
They started with a brief and then quickly realised that to achieve their objectives of diversity and inclusion, it’s not as simple as tacking on a marketing slogan.
‘It has to be built into the DNA of the company.’ says Hans, ‘And I think that’s coming from my engineering background where things must happen for a reason and function with intent. Diversity is very important, even if we just talk about it from business point of view, obviously, having more diverse membership means that we’ll have a bigger market. It’s fundamentally powerful.’
The design of the FAB9 space is a collaboration between Therefore, an emerging Melbourne architecture AND interior practice led by Alex Lake and Anom, an architecture studio founded by Jas Johnston (Fabrication workshop manager of University of Melbourne’s FabLab) and his wife Cassandra Chin (former architect at Six Degrees).
FAB9’s branding and website is created by U-P, an ideas-led creative consultancy led by Paul Marcus Fuog and Uriah Gray. Paul is trained in sculpture rather than a graphic design, so he really appreciate the craft of making, which is one of the reasons FAB9 wanted to work with him.
FAB9’s brand articulation and language style guide was developed by The Good Copy whose previous clients include MPavilion, Design Hub and ACMI.
Hans and Ying are excited about this beta version of FAB9 at the Dream Factory and if it goes well, they’ll look to expand, ‘I really think we can own that space where when people think about design, or when they think about prototyping, or experimentation, they think about FAB9. Giving our entrepreneurs affordable access to powerful machinery is going to bring some very interesting startups out of this space.’ says Hans.
As the architecture design phase finishes up, the focus will be on developing strategic relationships with creative and cultural partners in Melbourne and really embed FAB9 as a destination of design, art, technology and making. Ying believes FAB9 will democratise access to machines and technology, ‘We want to be accessible and approachable and we want to deliver on our manifesto. We want to encourage you to get your hands on tools, make making fun, embrace failure, share learning and love experimentation.’
FAB9 is a maker-space for design, technology and art. A place for hardware entrepreneurs, designers,t inkerers, artists, craftspeople, and anyone who want experiment and explore through the making of physical objects.
A 15-minute walk from Footscray train station along the Maribyrnong river, FAB9 is grounded in the momentum of Melbourne’s west with a view of the CBD skyline and part of The Dream Factory — a hub for businesses focused on technology, design, and social change.
FAB9 will be opening to the public in 2018. In the meantime, you can check out their brand new website: https://fab9.com.au, sign up to their newsletter and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Making may be a part-time passion or a full-time profession, FAB9 offers flexible access and rates. Memberships start at only $99 a month. If you’d like to tour the space or find out more, you can book a time via The Dream Factory website or email: firstname.lastname@example.org