Aya – a Selfmade 3D Printer

Aya – that’s a 3D printer that students of the Human-Computer Interaction master’s program produced in the winter semester 2015/2016 as part of the “3D Printing” seminar.

At the beginning of the seminar, the students were first familiarized with the basics of digital fabrication: What manufacturing processes are there, what materials can be used for printing, what are the possible application potentials? They also learned more about the individual steps of 3D printing: from modeling, to slicing (the “translation” of a 3D model into instructions for the printer), to the printing itself. For the subsequent project work, four students decided to devote themselves to building their own 3D printer.

The project participants used a kit as a basis, which already contained most of the parts needed for construction. All blueprints as well as the control software are available open source and so the students first built the printer according to the distributor’s template. However, they quickly discovered that not everything was working properly. So they decided to print some housing parts themselves using a different 3D printer in the Fab Lab and made other changes to improve print quality, such as adjusting the holder for the consumable. This was followed by a longer calibration phase, because the automatic support systems, which the printer actually has for this, unfortunately didn’t work quite as well as expected.

The students spent an entire semester working on the printer, which they named Aya (after a Japanese movie character). Aya is a Delta Robot 3D printer whose distinctive feature is its design: The three-axis system, which differs from conventional printers with linear axis systems, enables fast, precise printing. In addition to smaller test prints, the first larger prints such as an owl or a vase have already been made. Initial test runs indicate that Aya can print at a fabulous speed of up to 300-350 mm/second.

Even though the study project has now been completed, the students want to continue working on optimizing the 3D printer. For example, the installation of the control electronics or the stabilization of the base frame is being considered here to make Aya more transportable. There are also plans to test Aya with other materials such as ABS – the plastic used to make Lego bricks, for example – because so far only PLA, an environmentally friendly plastic based on (corn) starch, has been used as a material.

The students themselves learned a lot about 3D printing during the seminar and by building Aya. On Technology Day, the printer was presented and used for the first time in front of a broad public.

Aya in full size:

Yallah – You All Are Hackers

“YALLAH- You all are hackers” is an international exchange and cooperation project between the University of Siegen and Birzeit University in the West Bank in Palestine. The project is funded by the DAAD program “University Dialogue with the Islamic World” and will be implemented for the first time in 2016. In two exchange phases of four weeks each, ten students from one university visit the other country. In addition to getting to know the region, culture and people, it is also about working together on projects that focus on local issues. The goal is the joint development of creative and sustainable approaches to solutions, in the implementation of which the students also make use of digital fabrication methods, which happens, for example, in the Fab Lab Siegen or in and around (hack/maker/*) spaces in Palestine.


As part of the first exchange phase, ten students and two staff members of the University of Siegen traveled to the West Bank this April, excited and full of expectations. After an initial orientation phase with many new impressions, all students from both universities brainstormed together to develop project groups dedicated to the various problems and possible solutions.

One project group, for example, dealt with the computer club in the refugee camp “Al-Amari”, which on the one hand aims to promote intercultural exchange between Palestinians and refugees on site, and on the other hand offers a collaborative and playful addition to the limited educational opportunities in refugee camps. The club was already established in 2013 as part of research work for the come_in project. The students first took care of repairing the infrastructure on site and developing new workshop ideas with the available resources. Afterwards, several workshops were held with children, in which they were taught the simple basics of electrical engineering so that they could directly build their own first circuits. Even after the first exchange phase, the on-site workshops are still continuing.

Another project group dedicated to the (plastic) waste problem frequently found in the Middle East (as in so many parts of the world) developed, among other things, the first prototypes of edible cutlery made of dough and conducted a study on plastic bag consumption in supermarkets. Another project team built a small garden in the refugee camp under the title “Urban Gardening”, for which, among other things, plastic bottles were recycled as watering cans and planters. The individual groups repeatedly made use of principles of hacker and maker culture in their projects.

But outside of the projects, there were other points of contact with hacker and maker culture, as well as with digital fabrication opportunities on the ground. For example, students participated in an Arduino workshop at the first Palestinian hackspace, Vecbox. In addition, students and staff from Siegen, who are currently also actively involved in setting up our Fab Lab, held several 3D printing workshops at the university, where not only were the basics of 3D printing taught, but the participants also designed and printed their own first 3D models together. As a prerequisite to holding the workshop, the available 3D printer was also collaboratively maintained and serviced. In the course of this, the university partners of the University of Siegen were also able to advise a professor on site on the purchase of a new 3D printer.

During the four weeks on site, the students experienced a lot. A lasting impression was left in particular by the strong contrasts between innovation and tradition that are lived out locally. For example, a horse plowed a field right next to the Hackspace, where innovative technologies like 3D printers are used.

In summary, a trend toward innovation via a community-oriented hacker and maker culture – as in many places around the world – is also evident in Palestine. However, the development, elaboration and dissemination of these trends, which ultimately also have a great deal to do with self-determination, are always faced with major challenges. Yallah is one piece of the puzzle of many in the establishment of global collaborations at eye level, in which creativity, self-determination and the use of (digital and distributed) fabrication methods play important roles. In August, the second exchange phase begins, which will take place in Germany and during which the students also want to further develop their solution approaches at our Fab Lab. You can read detailed reports about the experiences during the exchange so far on the project’s blog.

Zeit.Raum – Making Siegen come alive

The interdisciplinary research project ZEIT.RAUM Siegen is being carried out in close cooperation with citizens and aims to make the city of Siegen experience and understand its space and history in a collaborative way using innovative technology. ZEIT.RAUM is designed to facilitate collaboration and exchange between all interested parties – from academics and students to schoolchildren and amateur historians – about the city’s history, present and future. This opens up new forms of knowledge generation and transfer.

The project consists of two interlinked components: A touchable table-sized city model for interaction, produced using various digital fabrication processes and exhibited in the Siegerland Museum. Built-in sensors enable an interactive experience of the city and its history, which also stimulates individual memories. The second central element of the project is the Stadtwiki, a collaborative digital platform on Siegen’s city history, which is being developed by and for citizens. In addition to collecting information, it also serves as a forum to discuss the meaning of the data collected. Places of remembrance are identified, processed and reflected upon. All components of the project should be designed in such a way that they are easily accessible, understandable and easy to use for all interested parties.

One of the first test prints for the interactive city model

The role of the Fab Lab

We at Fab Lab are also involved in the project on several levels, especially in the creation of the interactive city model. The existing virtual 3D model of the city of Siegen, which was created by Prof. Jarosch, serves as the data basis for this. The topography is milled out of a large plate in the Lab. Which material is best suited for this is currently being tested. The true-to-the-original buildings of the city installed on it, on the other hand, are printed with the 3D printers in the Fab Lab. The sensor technology that will later be installed in the city model, which should be as user-friendly as possible, is also being developed in our lab. Several students are also involved in the project, working on individual components of the project within the framework of qualification theses.

Paper prototype for the interaction concept of the city model

Current developments

Currently, students are working on the design of the interaction concept and have, among other things, created a paper prototype of the city model. Likewise, the first prototypes for the city model have already been successfully printed and the sensor technology extensively tested. The model is printed with conductive filament so that the sensors can later be built directly into the city model. As part of this initial technical work, a developer board (see cover picture) was also created on which the following were installed: Arduino-Leonardo, Raspberry Pi 2, CAP1188-Breakout, 3D-printed touch sensor and 3D-printed matrix.

Test of the sensor technology to be installed in the city model

During one of our last project meetings, a first model of the Nikolaikirche – probably the best known landmark of the city of Siegen – was already printed. It took our Ultimaker a whole three hours to make the 1:9000 scale model.
Here you can see the result:


Other project partners

In addition to the Fab Lab, the University of Siegen also involves the Chair of Didactics of History headed by Prof. Dr. Bärbel Kuhn, the Chair of Practical Geodesy and Geoinformation headed by Prof. Dr. Monika Jarosch and the Chair of Computer Supported Group Work headed by Prof. Dr. Volkmar Pipek. The realisation was made possible by the support of the university and the Friends and Patrons of the Siegerlandmuseum, who see the project as an investment in the future of the Siegerlandmuseum. The Siegerland Museum is to be strengthened by ZEIT.RAUM in its role for cooperative and inclusive historical work in and with the region.

We will of course keep you informed about further developments of the project in and around the Lab.

The origin of Fab Lab Siegen

Efforts to establish a Fab Lab at the University of Siegen are not entirely new. On a smaller scale, similar activities have already been carried out at Faculty III:

The HCI lab there also provides infrastructure (e.g. 3d printers) to some extent. Even though the HCI Lab is also quite open in principle, there are no Open Lab Days here, the equipment is not extensive, the area is very small and, in addition, the room is often needed for chair activities and can then of course not be used by everyone. However, we explicitly mention the HCI-Lab here, as its operation has already created quite a bit of expertise, especially in areas such as 3d printing or also Arduino. The Fab Lab Siegen and the HCI-Lab will therefore collaborate closely (e.g. for courses and workshops) and possibly consolidate hardware and equipment in some cases.

Hackspace Siegen

It is always impressive how many exciting, self-organized and open activities are already happening in a rather small city like Siegen. One such venture is Hackspace Siegen e.V. (HaSi).

A hackspace and a Fab Lab are conceptually quite similar – both are open, creative environments where projects can be realized, lectures and workshops are held, and quite a few other exciting things happen. Basically, though, you can say that a Hackspace is more software-oriented, while in a Fab Lab you focus more on production and hardware with machines and tools. For this reason, both concepts complement each other perfectly and Fab Lab and HaSi will work in lively exchange, support each other for projects and make good use of the different competences!