One of Lexington’s nerdiest spots is in one of its most unusual as well. Hidden amidst the deteriorating buildings that dot the abandoned industrial park of Manchester Rd. in Lexington, KY, lies an enterprising startup. They want you to know that a 3D printed future is real, and it’s here.
Welcome to ArtLab
As you walk through the empty concrete room that comprises the first floor of the ArtLab, it’s a little underwhelming. As you walk up the stairs and emerge into the second floor workspace, it is quite the transition. It feels like you just took the next step forward to the Kurzweil-ian singularity. At first, the sheer amount of tech can be overwhelming. Thankfully, I met Benajmin. He is the proprietor of the business and the man who will forever have the distinction of being the first person I’ve seen in real life wearing Google Glass.
One the front two tables, various sized 3-D printers were busying layering away. One of them was making a Yoda head. These are just the models, and you can buy everything they show. Not ready to take the plunge, but want to get a little experimental? For $10, you can rent a machine and start printing. You just pay for the plastic that you use for the model. The cheapest kind is only .20 per gram, so you can afford to play around.
Behind the printers were computer monitors showing the program that you use to make the models for printing. You can use a variety of programs like such as SketchUp, Maya, or 3D Studio Max to create your own models. Or you can search for models in the free online model database Thingiverse, send it in an email, and print like it’s the 31st century Kinkos. If you were interested in learning more about modeling, a friendly patron sat with a laptop on the couch giving out free lessons and answering questions. If you have a particularly tricky project, ArtLab also offers quotes to produce models or mentor you in the creation of whatever you can imagine.
In one corner a Kinect sat perched pointing at a stool. Using this technology, they can scan an object or person—from the size of a bust to a full grown adult—and create a miniaturized version. Now that I know this exists, all I want to do is create an action figure line of mini-Jeremys in various poses. Benjamin says he hopes to expand one day with a smaller, but very expensive, scanner which would allow small objects and trinkets to be recreated in amazing detail.
It was a lot to take in, but thankfully Ben and everyone there were really friendly. They took the time to show off everything and answer my questions. ArtLab is a part of Lexington’s Makerspace, an organization dedicated to teaching and supporting DIY, projects, and business. If you want to support local business and get a taste of the future, check out ArtLab on Facebook or in person at 1210 Manchester St. Lexington, KY 40517. While you’re in the area be sure to check out their neighbor, the Barrel House Distillery, which is the hidden gem of the bourbon trail, or see a great show at Busters down the street.