NextFab Studio in South Philadelphia hosted “Product Prototyping in 60 Minutes” for 30 engineers, entrepreneurs and artists interested in creating products using the advanced technology available at the studio.

NextFab staffers presented participants with the prototyping steps by using a digital house number design, then demonstrated how the product was constructed using the studio’s equipment — including various software programs, a wood-carving ShopBot, a stone-cutting Waterjet machine and the Arduino microcontroller.

The event was NextFab’s first prototyping demo and part of Philly Tech Week.

Making better makers

NextFab president and founder Evan Malone worries about the loss of manufacturing in the U.S., and wants to show that advanced computer-controlled machines can spur innovation. The idea behind Wednesday’s event was to show people interested in these technologies the thought process behind turning an idea into a product, and also a few of the pitfalls they are likely to encounter along the way. 

“People get excited about an idea and rush in without considering whether the direction they’re headed in is a good one for their end goals,” said Malone, who explained that paying attention to excitement-killers like financing, legal issues and marketability early on can mean success for product creators.  

The studio operates like a fitness gym. Members can use NextFab’s equipment, take classes or receive assistance from trained staff members.

“Where it’s at”

Biomedical engineering student Melissa Stangl joined NextFab to learn more about electronic and mechanical programming. “I’m interested in creating a sleep mask that will help with lucid dreaming,” said Stangl.

Software programmer George Alexander is considering membership at NextFab. He was impressed with the studio’s 3D printing machines and laser cutters.

The prototyping presentation Wednesday gave Alexander a concrete idea of how the South Philadelphia studio could assist him in creating the jewelry he hopes to make. “The amount of activity that there is in the rapid prototyping and 3D printing area, a lot’s going on in the world. And in Philadelphia, this is really where it’s at.”