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ABQ Quelab adds 3-D carving technology

ShapeokoMembers and users of Quelab, a 4-year-old “makers’ space” in Downtown Albuquerque, soon will have access to a three-dimensional carving machine – one of the latest devices in digital manufacturing technology.

Quelab received the machine this week as a donation from the Chicago-based company Inventables, which makes and sells the 3-D carvers and the tools and materials to go with it.

Unlike 3-D printers, which build plastic products based on computer designs by spraying the plastic down a layer at a time, 3-D carvers cut out product designs from blocks of metals, wood and other materials, said Inventables spokesman Michael Una.

“3-D carving is the opposite of printing, which squeezes out layers of plastic to build something,” Una said. “In this case, you put down a solid block of material, whether it’s glass, aluminum or hard wood like mahogany, and the machine cuts away at it to reveal a design made on a computer.”

Quelab already has two 3-D printers, including one that can print over a cubic foot of plastic, but this is its first 3-D carver, said Quelab co-founder and President Walter Duran.

“Inventables donated one 3-D carver in every state, and we won the one for New Mexico,” Duran said. “We expect a ton of demand for it at Quelab. One person wants to build prototype injection molds with it, and another wants to make bellows for old-school cameras.”

Quelab, which was founded in 2010, is a hackers’ or makers’ space, where people pay to gain 24/7 access to shared facilities that include everything from WiFi desks and conference rooms to work benches and areas dedicated to soldering and electronics work. The nonprofit currently has 50 members and boasts two startup companies that launched from the makers’ space.

The center moved last year from a 1,500-square-foot office to a 9,000-square-foot facility at Haines Avenue and 7th Street Downtown.