Space for invention

Mr Chin has gained much from his experience at MakerSpace but has also given a lot in return with his many creations as well as improvements to the workshop's existing tools.
Mr Chin has gained much from his experience at MakerSpace but has also given a lot in return with his many creations as well as improvements to the workshop's existing tools.PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Digital and precision engineering student Wilson Chin, 21, has long been passionate about making things - so much so that his father bought him a 3D printer and metal lathe several years ago.

While he is lucky enough to have the machines, which he keeps in his bedroom - "so I keep the mess to myself, and my mum doesn't scold me" - he visits MakerSpace nearly every day because of the buzz and helpful feedback he gets from other students.

He said: "I ask my friends, 'How does this look? What do you think I can improve on?' "

At NYP's MakerSpace, where students go to make things, he has created an aluminium yo-yo that took 14 hours to make, and also improved existing tools.

One of these is a "machinist's pen", which for added convenience combines a scriber, a tool for marking lines on metal, with a ball point pen on the other end.

 
 
 
 

He has also created custom- made cutters for making grooves in surfaces. Another of his creations is a "quick change tool" for a metal lathe - a machine tool that removes material from a rotating workpiece - that allows the user to change cutters without having to re-adjust the entire setup.

"If you change the tool, you need to adjust the tool centre height... (Now) you can take a new tool, and just slot it in. It'll be a lot faster to use, and easier," he said.

Mr Chin has gained much from his experience at MakerSpace, but has also given much in return.

Two more of his creations - an accordion-like cardboard "drawer" collecting debris from machines, and a clear acrylic screen to shield users from waste during drilling - are now in use in the workshop. He is also one of five technical assistant coaches who advise students on their designs and help to service machines.

MakerSpace deputy director Yang Tien said of Mr Chin: "He doesn't just use the machines. He strips them down and reassembles them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2017, with the headline 'Space for invention'. Print Edition | Subscribe