From 3D printing to laser cutting, make custom gifts right here on campus

*This story was updated and edited for clarity and brevity by Jenna Heil on December 15, 2022.

Every year it can be tough to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones, whether it’s for birthdays or the holidays. Fortunately for students, there is a creative solution available right on campus. If you’re in need of a unique custom gift with a personal touch, look no further than RMCAD’s very own FabLab, or Fabrication Laboratory. 

The FabLab is a place where students of all majors can converge to make awesome stuff using cutting edge technology. Take a closer look at the technology tools available!

Vinyl cutter
The vinyl cutter is a machine that uses a blade to rapidly cut into sheets of vinyl. A vector-based design is required in order to create shapes or letters on the surface of the vinyl. The vinyl sheets function similarly to stickers, as the shapes cut into the vinyl can be removed and adhered to a variety of surfaces, such as plastic, metal, glass, walls, etc. This is a great idea if you are interested in making custom mugs or tumblers.

Laser cutter
The laser cutter uses a strong laser to make clean, precise cuts through approved material, and can also be used to create detailed engravings. Only certain materials may be used, as some materials are inherently more flammable than others. Always double check that your desired material is compatible before using the laser cutter! A few gift ideas include: coasters, a wax seal, rubber stamp, puzzles or wooden signs.  

Vacuum former
Commonly referred to as a vacuform, this tool heats plastic to create a mold for an object. This is a great option if you need to create molds fast, however bring earplugs because the machine can get loud. We recommend using this tool to create molds for candles, soap or paperweights – just to name a few fun project ideas.

3D printing
3D printers allow you to print digital models of anything you can find online or sculpt yourself through software like Maya and Zbrush. 3D printers work by building up your design layer by layer starting from the base. There are two kinds of prints you can make in the FabLab: filament and resin prints. Filament prints are available in a variety of colors and are free, however they do not capture extreme details. If you are looking for something more detailed, your best option is to print with resin. Resin prints are calculated by the volume of your print, so if you plan on printing large, it may be beneficial to hollow out your model in order to save time, material and money. The possibilities are endless when it comes to 3D project ideas – so the sky’s the limit!

In addition to providing access to all these marvels of technology, the FabLab hosts a large format printer as well as a laminator available for student use. The FabLab also frequently holds workshops throughout each term involving demonstrations of these machines, as well as interactive workshops involving activities such as glass etching. The schedule of workshops for each term can be found on the door of the FabLab.

If you are interested in pursuing a FabLab project to make a custom gift, please schedule an appointment through the RMCAD app under “Schedule Classroom Resources” at least 12 hours in advance. If the scheduler does not allow you to book, this means the campus is closed or that time slot has reached its capacity. For more information, please visit here or stop by Texas 207. Happy gifting!

This article was written by Sam Kapral from The Student Learning Center (SLC). The SLC welcomes students from all programs both on-campus and online who strive to do better in the classroom while perfecting their craft.