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Designing, manufacturing, copying, repairing and developing prototypes - using all kinds of materials. Created in 2021 by Laurent Germain, an electronics and IT engineer with a Masters degree in robotics, the FabLab at the CSTJF brings every idea to life. This laboratory is a little out of the ordinary - equipped with a dozen 3D printers, a laser cutting machine, a CNC milling machine and an electronics hub. The maker movement influence means anyone can innovate, using whatever comes to hand and a lot of imagination. And it works!


The Maker mindset is taking hold in the FabLab!

"The FabLab is getting more and more requests"
, explains Stéphane Martinez, an additive printing expert. "We’re not daunted by people asking for the impossible. In fact we actually like the challenge". In three years, the laboratory – which began by creating face shields during the COVID19 pandemic - has considerably extended its service offer based on multi-material additive manufacturing, to include computer assisted design, digital reproduction of broken parts, prototyping, R&D, etc.



3D printing - an ally in current transitions

The result is that the FabLab is producing more and more parts on request for the affiliates, which reduces costs and waste. "We designed valve handwheels using polymer, to replace parts that rusted and needed to be repainted regularly", explains Laurent Germain, head of the FabLab. "We’re also working on elastomer seals. By manufacturing them on demand, we reduce storage time and the risk of losing parts that have a limited lifespan".

The FabLab is already the go-to additive manufacturing spot for several affiliates (Angola, Qatar, Nigeria, Congo, etc.). "We provide technical advice for purchasing printers and training local personnel. We even go as far as network machine management, which means initiating 3D print jobs remotely". Moreover, these prototypes serve to derisk the solutions designed by the R&D teams.

"We make parts out of biosourced plastic, which is 100 times cheaper than metal. 3D views are better for the projects, and we can make several iterations very quickly, for a reasonable budget". The FabLab was recently called on to invent devices to count the larvae of fish and flying insects. "We play around with things, give free-rein to our imagination, and we always end up finding solutions", Laurent Germain confirms.



The Repair Shop, a main player in fighting programmed obsolescence

Is your fridge door handle broken? Do you have a bike part that’s the worse for wear? Have you lost a bottle top? Do you have a worn radiator foot? The FabLab is also a Repair Shop, where TotalEnergies employees can ask for 3D print jobs for their own personal needs. "Many of the users who come to the FabLab for professional reasons, visited the Repair Shop first", observes Laurent Germain. "They see that it works, that 3D printing is a solution to give a second life to many different items of equipment, and they come back with maintenance problems to be solved".

Another FabLab service is giving lessons for people to learn how to repair things themselves. Hands-on, learning and acculturation are all part of the maker mindset. In the FabLab, you can learn to model a part, program micro-controllers, build a robot, develop a home electronics system, play around with virtual and augmented reality, etc.

The FabLab (3 employees) at the CSTJF works with several local partners: the École Supérieure des Technologies Industrielles Avancées (ESTIA) in Pau, the École Nationale d’Ingénieurs de Tarbes (ENIT), the University of Pau and the Pays de l’Adour, the CETIM Sud-Ouest for ATEX (Explosive Atmosphere) certification of the additive manufacturing process, and the national and international FabLab network.