Honey, I 3D Printed the President: Fab Lab Space Pops Up Near the White House

March 27, 2014

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GE Garages, a moveable feast for makers replete with 3D printers, injection molders and laser cutters, arrived in Washington, DC, last week, just a few blocks from the White House.

Adults and kids alike can learn about rapid prototyping and advanced manufacturing, participate in hands-on training and listen to guest speakers.

Later this afternoon, for example, a group of students from Washington’s TransTech STEM Academy will take part in a 3D printing workshop led by industry experts. Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation for the White House, will walk over for a “townhall” discussion with students starting at 3pm.

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The first GE Garages opened at the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin inside a customized shipping container in March 2012.

When GE Garages stopped at Chicago’s Ideas Week tech conference last fall, Quirky’s founder and CEO Ben Kaufman dropped in on a manufacturing class taught by students from Cleveland’s MC2STEM school to 30 local kids.

In Austin and New York, visitors used injection molders to make iPhone cases, weld sculptures, and 3D print replicas of the Empire State Building.

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Quirky’s Ben Kaufman and Cleveland’s MC2STEM team at GE Garages in Chicago.

GE Garages is much more than high-tech tinkering. The technologies working in the space have real-world applications in industries ranging from aviation to healthcare.

“The potential of 3D printing and other forms of additive manufacturing, for example, makes us excited about what we can do,” says Luana Iorio, chief consulting engineer at GE Aviation. “We’re looking at applying it to polymers, ceramics, metals, all kinds of materials for many different components across the GE product line. It’s one of the biggest things to happen in manufacturing in some time.”

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GE Garages spent the last two years traveling around the U.S. It will go global later this year. GE developed it in partnership with Skillshare, Quirky, Make and Inventables. The fab lab is using machines from TechShop.

Visit the GE Garages website for opening hours. The fab lab will stay in the capital until April 9.

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