Cebu’s first FabLab

THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has earmarked P5.3 million to set up the Digital Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab) in the University of the Philippines-Cebu, the second FabLab established in Central Visayas after Bohol.

According to DTI Cebu Director Elena Arbon, Cebu’s FabLab offers a creative space for designers, creatives, entrepreneurial students, and the general public to test out their ideas and bring these to life through digital fabrication and fast prototyping.

The DTI said the FabLab will help the region produce a greater number of excellent quality and creative designs. This is also expected to help industries improve their access to more designers and creative design outputs, as well as access to prototyping equipment to complement their existing design capabilities.

The FabLab is located at the College of Arts and Humanities of the UP Cebu Fine Arts Department.

DTI has invested on digitally advanced equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutter, printer and cutter, desktop vinyl cutter, CNC router (shopbot), small CNC bench-box, and milling machine.

According to Arbon, the establishment of FabLab in Cebu is an added boost to the province, which is popularly known for its world-class creativity— from furniture to fashion accessories.

MSME development

DTI believes FabLabs help develop the local economy by providing better and more competitive products, enhancing the local micro, small and medium enterprises ecosystem, encouraging startups, and developing entrepreneurs, who eventually create jobs for people.

Aside from the establishment of the FabLab in UP Cebu, DTI also launched yesterday the Negosyo Center and Co-Working Space, still in the same university.

Lawyer Liza Corro, the UP Cebu acting chancellor, said the establishment of these government intervention facilities has made UP a hub for a complete collaborative ecosystem for MSMEs, helping them and their respective businesses become commercially viable. Likewise, these facilities help the academe—students and teachers—on research and development, among others.

Corro said the establishment of the FabLab is a welcome development, as it is a synergy of creativity and information technology skills, which Cebuanos are known for.

Singing praise

A FabLab is a technology-based incubator laboratory, which began in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to help grassroots communities translate their design ideas into physical forms with the help of technology. The facility is now present in about 200 locations in over 50 countries.

The establishment of Cebu’s FabLab has also earned praises from the private sector, saying this will bring Cebu’s creative edge to the next level.

“We believe the FabLab is a wonderful development to spur the creative and innovative market here in Cebu. Both the academe and industry will greatly benefit from this facility. Entrepreneurs, particularly MSMEs, would be given immediate access to tools and technology that can turn an idea into a marketable product,” said Melanie Ng, president of Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“I’ve seen the equipment currently set up there, and I believe there are endless possibilities for product development that can happen if our MSMEs take advantage of the facilities,” she added.

Ng said they will make sure CCCI members take advantage of the facilities and vowed to assist them in bringing their businesses to the next level.

Lowering cost

The presence of the FabLab, according to Philexport Cebu executive director Fred Escalona, also helps Cebuano exporters and startups become competitive, as far as operational cost is concerned.

“Since the FabLab is a shared service facility, users of the facility will be able to avoid high costs and large capital infusion if they are to operate their own facility. Usage of the lab’s equipment can be optimized, thus making the operation cost efficient,” said Escalona.

In a separate interview, exporter and former president of Cebu Gift, Decors and Houseware (GDH) Pete Delantar said that if properly disseminated to other schools, the FabLab can help industry startups create a creativity explosion because “creativity can now be executed into action through actual use of machine and equipment for prototyping.”

Management issues

“The hurdles of creation is the translation of idea into action. Fablab is the cheapest and effective way to make thing happen,” said Delantar, chief executive officer of Nature’s Legacy Eximport.

Delantar hopes, though, that the FabLab management establishes an operational manual or implementing rules and regulations without delay so that prospective users know the fees and charges involved in the use of the facility.

Arbon said DTI Cebu and UP Cebu still have to sit down to discuss the management concerns, which include the fees, among others. However, Arbon said her office will be conducting maker trainings to raise awareness on the usage of the Digital FabLab.

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