Barcelona gets Europe’s first ‘3D printer café’

The first FabCafe in Spain opened on Thursday, allowing customers to print their own 3D models and watch lasers cut their designs while they sit down with a relaxing cup of café con leche.

Barcelona gets Europe's first '3D printer café'
3D printers use a process known as 'additive manufacturing' to create solid models from digital designs of items including toys and industrial prototypes. Photo: MANJUNATH KIRAN / AFP

It is the first such establishment in Europe and will follow the business model established by FabCafe Tokyo and FabCafe Taipei.

The cafe offers a range of "fabbers" — short for "digital fabricators".

Known as "factories in a box" these tools make real, solid 3D objects from digital designs by laying down successive layers of material in the required shape.

Fabber users can create their own designs on a laptop, tablet or even a mobile phone and have them manufactured while they wait.

They can also download pre-existing designs from a huge and ever-growing range of online templates.

Popular items to make include personalized jewellery, toys and decorations but the technology is also heavily used for prototypes of industrial designs.  

The process removes the need for shipping, as any 3D printer-compatible design can be sent instantly from anywhere in the world and manufactured in minutes.

Located in the MOB (Makers of Barcelona) co-working space in the Eixample district, FabCafe offers the public easy access to the latest technology in digital fabrication — hence the FabCafe name.

Cecilia Tham, the director and founder of the company told Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia, "We want people to start to use these printers every day," so they can "create for themselves."

In the Tokyo FabCafe some 60 per cent of users are non-professionals in the sector who have learned to use the technology for themselves.

To help novices in Barcelona get started, FabBoys and FabGirls — as the expert staff are known — are on hand to answer questions.

Use of the service will cost customers between €8 and €30, depending on the time involved.

The Catalan capital is becoming known as a 'city of fabbers' with a number of other design schools and workshops offering public access to the technology.

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