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Fab Lab opens in Manchester to help budding inventors

Musical dental hygiene? No problem with the mp3 toothbrush

Most ideas never get beyond the back of an envelope, but at Manchester's Fab Lab, inventors are being offered help to bring their concepts to life.

The first of its kind in the UK, the not-for-profit facility has been set up in the Chips building in New Islington.

It claims to offer anyone with a good idea the help and materials to get it off the ground.

A team of on site technicians as well as scientists and engineers at 37 other Fab Labs worldwide offer advice via a video link.

Enjoy it

Take Tayyeb. The 11-year-old member of the Manchester young inventors' group had been pondering the universal difficulty of brushing his teeth while listening to music.

A visit to Fab Lab and he's now a step closer to convincing a manufacturer to take his idea of an MP3 toothbrush on.

''Everyone likes music," he said.

"I don't know anyone who doesn't like music and if you combine music with a toothbrush you get this and you'll just start brushing and you'll really enjoy it - genius!''

Chips building
First Fab Lab in the UK
Based on ground floor of Chips building
Free to non-commercial users

Rugby league player Matt King, a winger with Warrington Wolves, has mused since childhood on the possibility of combining his other passions of cricket and tennis.

With help from Fab Lab's technicians and its specialist cutting and moulding machinery, he's produced a version of his strangely strung 'crackit' bat.

''They've taken what's inside this ugly head of mine and turned it into a prototype, and moving forward we'll hopefully see it in the shops in the next 12 months,'' he said.

Then there's 13-year-old Munasha, who was inspired by his aunt's difficulty in judging the temperature of her baby's milk.

He attended the lab at the landmark Chips building in Manchester's New Islington to create a feeding bottle which changes colour when milk is heated to the right temperature.

''She took the milk and tested it on her hand and it burnt her so I came up with my idea," he said.

Make anything

Born out of a community outreach programme at Boston's Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT), Fab Lab's serious aims are to help ordinary people do their bit to find solutions to big problems from climate change to improving housing and health care.

Manchester led the first industrial revolution and now it is at the centre of a new industrial revolution where anyone can make anything
Fab Lab founder Professor Neil Gershenfeld

There are Fab Labs based all over the world and claim to have helped Norwegian shepherds to create mobile phones to track sheep as well as helping to produce prosthetic limbs in Afghanistan.

In South Africa, a Fab Lab project is creating simple internet connected computers that hook up to televisions and cost just ten dollars each.

Be creative

Manchester's Fab Lab has been set up with support from the Manufacturing Institute, an independent charity founded by North West manufacturers and Universities and is publicly funded.

Founder Professor Neil Gershenfeld, MIT's director of the centre for bits and atoms, said Manchester's history of innovation made it an obvious choice for their first UK Fab Lab.

"Manchester led the first industrial revolution and now it's at the centre of a new industrial revolution where anyone can make anything, anywhere using digital manufacturing.

"Fab Labs give people the tools they need to create technology, to be creative and make the stuff that they can't buy in the shops."

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