High tech meets fine art at MakerLabs, a new studio and gallery opening in Vancouver today that will give artists a range of powerful new tools.

For $100 a month.artists will be able to use the studio`s 3D printers, laser cutters, and robotic mills or describe their projects to one of the studio's four employees, who can make it for them.

MakerLabs cofounder Derek Gaw says he got the idea when he was living in San Francisco and was a member of TechShop, a space with a similar concept.

Big with Burning Man

While he calls himself a "recreational" artist, Gaw recently worked on a big project for the alternative art event Burning Man.

"We built a 20-foot-tall seated meditating man. And then, at the end of the week, we burned it," he tells Rick Cluff on CBC Radio's The Early Edition.

Giant body parts appear popular. During a recent tour of the studio, there was a six-foot-tall nose and a 15-foot fibreglass, mechanical beating heart that will be lit with programmable LEDs at Burning Man.


$100,000 investment

High-tech gear does not come cheap. Gaw says they've spent over $100,000 on the equipment, and that doesn't include the 3D printer.

The ZCorp 650 printer is on loan from 3Design, a 3D Systems distributor, and the studio essentially acts as a showroom to show the public what's possible with the technology.

"Isn't that like cheating?," asks Cluff, "I mean, it's one thing to sculpt a nose. It's another thing just to push it into a computer and 3D reproduce a nose."

"I think it pushes the importance back to the content," says Gaw, "So if you think about the act of writing. What makes writing great isn't that the writer wrote all the words in the book himself. But now it can be printed automatically, and [accessed by] a lot more people."

MakerLabs is located at 221 East 10th Avenue in Vancouver.

MakerLabs cofounder Derek Gaw

MakerLabs cofounder Derek Gaw on CBC Radio's The Early Edition. (CBC)