The new multidisciplinary facility allows students to explore everything from textile computing to virtual reality
You won’t find robots in the basement of every building at Ryerson, but you will find them in the basement of the new Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex.
It’s the home of Ryerson’s new high-tech, multidisciplinary creative space, the Creative Lab at FCAD.
Inside you’ll find everything from 3D printers and knitters to laser and plasma cutters, as well as a 1,245 kilogram, bright orange KUKA robot arm. The facility can be used for digital fabrication, 3D printing, textile computing, AR/VR, robotics and anything else users can come up with.
“It’s not a technology lab, it’s a creative lab that happens to have (technological) tools in it,” said FCAD dean Charles Falzon. “It’s not about the robot. It’s not about the 3D printers. It’s not about the AR/VR equipment — all of which we have. It’s about the imagination.”
The almost-700 sq. m lab facility officially opened in October and was designed to provide FCAD students, faculty and researchers with an innovative new design space aimed at marrying engineering-based technologies with interdisciplinary creative programs.
“We persuaded funders that innovation and technology is not the purview only of the STEM disciplines, but also of the arts,” Falzon said.
The largest KUKA robot arm has been named Mies van der Robot, after famous architect Mies van der Rohe. The two smaller arms are named Bot-yonce and Anna Winterbot.
The lab currently has 19 research- and curriculum-based projects on the go, according to its director, School of Interior Design associate professor Jonathon Anderson.
“Because this lab is a hands-on lab, it’s not a job shop,” Anderson said. “You don’t come down here and say ‘I want this made,’ or ‘I have this idea, can you do this for me?’”
“You’re coming down here, you’re learning the technology, you’re engaging and getting in the trenches with that technology and you’re getting it to do what you need it to do,” he said.
So far, the applications seem limitless.
RTA New Media assistant professor Steve Daniels is making 3D-printed, flexible circuits and robots that can draw, while School of Performance assistant professor Michael Bergmann is creating a robot/human dance duet featuring the massive KUKA robot.
Linda Zhang, an assistant professor in the School of Interior Design, is even 3D-scanning the buildings of Chinatown with a drone and reprinting them, using the robot arm, out of clay. Because the Creative Lab features its own woodworking and metalworking spaces, she was able to build the clay extruder parts herself.
“It’s absolutely mind-boggling,” Anderson said.
According to Rana Latif, the director of marketing and strategic development for FCAD, the lab was mainly funded by the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund. Some of the equipment came from industry partners including Auto Desk, Trotec Laser Canada Inc. and Myant Inc., a Toronto-based textile computing company.
“They’re curious to see how far we can go with their equipment,” Latif said.
The Creative Lab is currently being used by several graduate courses, as well as Ryerson’s different zones, like the Design Fabrication Zone. The facility is available to students, faculty and researchers on an application basis.
“By the time (students) graduate, if they’re not one of the people interested in engaging with or using the technology, they’ll at least understand and respect what it can do,” Falzon said.