What is a Digital Fabrication Studio?

The Idea

In early 2015 I was looking for a new business idea. I was working as an IT contractor in Hewlett Packard and I owned a digital marketing company. I didn't want to stop these. But I wanted to start something new, I always like a new challenge. I wanted to start something that was different. I made a list of all the things this new business should include:

  • Fun
  • Beneficial to the community
  • Original (not another coffee shop!)
  • Staff run
  • Scalable
  • Creative
  • Profitable

I was aware of laser cutting technology, and 3D printing was starting to become a bit more mainstream. At the same time I was a bit disappointed in the level of technology education that my children were getting in school. I had been able to do Computer Science in school in the UK back in the early 1990's so was surprised it wasn't an option in Ireland. Especially with the massive growth in technology jobs.

After doing a good bit of online research I started to become interested in Fablabs and Makerspaces. I liked the idea of combining digital technology to make physical items. As an IT person I was familiar with building software and digital projects, but wanted to make real life items.

The short answer

A digital fabrication & STEM Learning Studio provides 3D printing and laser cutting and engraving services to individuals and small businesses.

At the same time the studio offers a growing range of educational workshops, classes and clubs that can be delivered live or online. These include computer coding, computer design, craft and maker skills.

Putting it into practice

By mid October 2015 I had the drafted a business plan, ordered a laser cutter and a 3D printer and found a premises. I remember a few sleepless nights as I prepared to sign the lease and jump in!

In early November I started advertising for staff and on 4th November 2015 I received a CV from Colm that looked promising. We met up, he came aboard and from then on it was full steam ahead! We fitted out the premises, the equipment started to arrive and everything took shape.

The initial idea was that we would have adult members join and they would be able to pay and use our equipment (laser cutter, 3D printer, CNC machine, digital embroidery machine, electronics workbench). At the same time we started rolling out computer coding classes for children and teens.

The coding classes were an instant hit and got us going quickly. However the adult membership side of the business was slow. A lot of people came along, said they thought it was a great idea, and then we never heard from them again. Slowly we began to realise that people just didn't have the time to learn how to use the equipment themselves.

But people did start to ask us if we could make things for them instead. Eventually the penny dropped and we pivoted the business away from the membership model to a service based business instead.

Since then we have moved twice to bigger premises, got extra lasers and fine tuned our offering.

Fast forward to 2021 and even in the middle of the COVID19 pandemic we've recorded our best ever months and continue to grow.

To this day I still don't work 'in' the business but I'm a business owner. I'm enjoying creating jobs for others whilst at the same time building a great future for my family.

We have the concept dialed in and now we are in the position to help other like minded entrepreneurs open their own Digital Fabrication & STEM Learning Studios. We've ambitious plans for growth and can see a future with a studio in every town and city in the world!

If you'd like to learn more then I suggest you join our community here