On a cloudy October afternoon we were lucky enough to get an inside glimpse of the new and exciting technology that is 3D printing. Hidden behind a seemingly ordinary building -not too far away from our headquarters in the district of Bibliothèque François Mitterrand- we discovered the premises of Usine IO and its 1500 square meters of creation space.
Our guided tour took us through the open space and several workshops, with three teams members detailing the specificities of each area and answering our questions.
As its name states, Usine IO isn’t like an ordinary fablab, which usually offers individuals the possibility to produce digital fabrications. Usine IO goes far beyond that and does not simply cater to the curious and creative, but to those with ambitious projects of mass production.
Indeed, Usine IO provides specific help to people working in start-ups, freelancers and even big businesses. Their philosophy is not just creating a prototype with 3D technology, but developing it to optimize the industrialization process.
The development process proved to be quite extensive. Usine IO offers the guidance of 4 experts, each specialized in different fields (from 3D conception to electronics), as well as access to 7 different workshops. These workshops introduce the users to a variety of different machines and components that they would not usually have access to. This allows them to create prototypes rapidly, to work with different materials, to polish the products with chemical agents, to create electronic circuit boards (and in doing so, to create connected objects).
What definitely struck me as one of the most innovative aspects of Usine IO was their emphasis on guidance and method. The use of such a variety of machines in itself is quite cost and time effective, avoiding the user the need to deal with a multitude of subcontractors. Through training and input from the experts, the informed user has a hand in each step of the production process and a closer relationship to his or her product.
What’s more, upon gazing around the open space while the technicians showed us their 3D creations, I noticed that the users (and clients of Usine IO), who all worked in different fields, seemed eager to help each other in grasping the mechanics of this relatively foreign technology. There is undoubtedly a strong sense of cooperation and craftsmanship which can be found in this emerging community, and which makes these kinds of tech shops all the more attractive.
« Notre visite dans les locaux d’Usine IO nous a permis de découvrir un nouveau type de Fab lab, axé sur la méthode et la formation. Ainsi ils cherchent à faciliter l’accès à la 3D Printing pour les entreprises afin qu’ils puissent optimiser l’industrialisation de leurs projets. On voit apparaître une nouvelle communauté qui s’entraide pour aborder les problématiques de l’impression 3D.»
Par Hugo Jacquemont