New Bellingham facility offers high-tech equipment for those who want to tinker, create

A new workspace is coming that will provide residents of all ages an opportunity to create with high-quality tools.

The Foundry has scheduled an open house from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, to show off its 3,000-square-foot facility at 1515 N. Forest St., near the Bellingham Grocery Outlet.

It is based on the makerspace concept, which has grown in popularity across the U.S. in recent years. Makerspaces are community skill-sharing workshops where people can pursue their interests in topics such as science, electronics, art, innovation, crafting and manufacturing. Taking a page from that model, The Foundry will offer a variety of equipment for those who pay a monthly membership fee, including 3D printers and scanners, a laser cutter, computer lab, industrial sewing machine and a woodworking shop.

Jason Davies, who founded The Foundry with Mary Keane and Troy Greig, said they plan on being flexible to see what the community needs. Davies said so many things are being done locally in garages and basements, that this is an opportunity for someone to take an idea and create a prototype using specialized tools in a bigger space.

It’s the type of facility that is needed in this community, said Lara Merriam-Smith, program director at the NW Innovation Resource Center, a local organization that helps entrepreneurs turn an idea into a business. One of the sticking points the resource center has discovered with entrepreneurs is finding a space to build a prototype.

“What I think they are doing is a fabulous idea,” Merriam-Smith said. “People will be able to be creative and make it themselves first. I’m also excited they brought it in as a community-based thing. Getting in touch with the community to see what they need is important.”

Revenue to keep the facility going will come through membership fees. For $50 a month, member benefits include having access to the facility with staff. Hours at The Foundry will be noon to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and noon to midnight on the weekend.

Members will have to go through a training program and safety test before they using some of the equipment. Production services are offered for those who don’t want to use the equipment.

The Foundry owners are currently organizing classes and programs to show how to use the equipment. The Foundry also will have classes and programs designed specifically for children and teens throughout the year.

One example is to have drop-in event focused on the popular computer game called Minecraft, which is used to construct buildings and other objects. Davies said there’s an opportunity for children and teens to design something in Minecraft and print it out on a 3D printer, further enhancing their 3D modeling skills.

Keane added that children realize that information is just a click away these days, and this makes for a different type of learner.

“This project-based learning encourages them to tinker, fail, and try again — preparing them for real-world challenges,” Keane said in a news release.

Details about The Foundry can be found at bellinghamfoundry.com or its Facebook page.