Zayed University launches a Fabrication Lab for Art and Design practices

24 Nov 2016

The College of Arts and Creative Enterprises (CACE) at Zayed University inaugurated the Fabrication Lab at its Dubai Campus facility in celebration of the UAE Innovation Week 2016.

The lab came in response to the innovative initiatives in education, in particular the "Creation of Robotics Labs" introduced by His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, on November 11th last year, in order to prepare and create future qualified generations ready to continue the process of development and progress in the UAE, preserve the gains of the country, and strengthen the position of the UAE locally and internationally as the capital of innovation and creativity in all sectors.

Professor Reyadh AlMehaideb, Vice President of Zayed University, inaugurated the event and gave a keynote speech saying: “From its first establishment, Zayed University has been fully committed to providing students with high quality education that keeps pace with international best practices. Today, the university offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs responding to some of the largest segments of the job market and a unique educational experience that develops students’ competencies and refines their skills and knowledge. It is with pleasure that I welcome you to the official opening of the newest addition to the university’s innovative teaching facilities: the Fabrication Lab in the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises.”

During the event, Professor AlMehaideb pointed out that: “The planning for the Fabrication Lab began four years ago and now culminates in the introduction of a fabrication space that meets industry standards and will equip our students with the skills they need for their employment after graduation.”

He added: “Current undergraduate students of different disciplines will gradually be involved in the operation of the robot and other devices and I understand that a graduate program proposal has been developed that will specifically focus on the Fabrication Lab and related technologies, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and industry partnerships.”

Following the inauguration, students and faculty demonstrated the various use of machines and applications. Examples of experimental ideas and proto types were also on display.

“We have high expectations of the outcomes from the Fabrication Lab. A hub of clever, rigorous design thinking that provides sustainable design solutions,” Professor AlMehaideb said.  

The Fabrication Lab is equipped with additive (3D printer) as well as subtractive (laser cutter) tools for digital manufacturing. The robot combines both additive and subtractive processes—adding or taking away through mills, grippers, saws, and hot wire cutters. Anything that is a manual tool in the traditional artist, designer or artisan workshop has its equivalent here. The robot is a versatile tool that can be used in a lot of different disciplines across colleges in the university.

With the introduction of a 3D scanner it is possible to scan existing objects and perform a reverse engineering approach in order to develop new prototypes. A student or researcher can model using a digital format and then print it using the 3D printer or by robotic manufacturing. It provides the ability to use an existing object—like scanning a chair, a person, or any other artifact, change it and output it in various formats for physical use in visual art, interior- and product design or virtual applications in Animation and Multimedia Design programs.

The new 8-axis robot for digital fabrication and robotic machining is being introduced as part of the tools for creative practice and research at CACE. The Kuka Agilus robot, manufactured in Germany sits in a 2.6m x 1.6m x1.4m secure glass cell, where it is operating on 6 internal and 2 external axes. It has a high speed spindle for milling operations, as well as various end-effectors (like a hand) such as grippers, vacuum grippers, and hot wire cutters. The machine weighs 3.5 tons to withstand the forces of the robotic movement. CACE faculty Professor Thorsten Lomker designed the machine in conjunction with the German systems integrator—

Ann-Maree Reaney, Dean of the CACE, said: “The Fabrication Lab is an example of the cutting-edge technology utilized at Zayed University to create innovative teaching and a learning environment for our students. CACE aims to prepare a new generation of creative thinkers; graduates who are leaders and innovators in the field and who will be employed in the growing art and design sector. These designers and artists will contribute significantly to the economy of the UAE and the future of our global community.”

This lab is a new conceptual approach towards teaching and learning in the region, and adds new opportunities for crafting in the 21st century, other than the manual techniques that have been developed in past centuries. The lab aims to be a prime platform for producing cutting edge design, contributing to the UAE National Agenda in knowledge building.