Allen Mcafee

Maker / / @fablabsd /

Allen McAfee is an inventor and Operations Manager and instructor at San Diego’s FabLab, a community production workshop equipped with digital fabrication machines to make almost anything.  “It’s like a nerd’s secret club …. we have a little bit of everything,” Allen says with a smile. 

Allen’s involvement with Fab Lab started after a successful few years running an in-demand Engineering firm focused on government contracts when he realized he had lost his drive for pursuing big business. “It’s very cut throat. I just did not enjoy it,” Allen recalls, “so after 4 years I left and started working on my own project.” Allen’s own project was a powder 3D printing system, the first of its kind. “It was something nobody had tried yet, nobody had worked on and I eventually wanted to take it to market.”  

Because Allen was relatively new to the whole maker movement at that time, he felt like he needed a place to gain clout and sought out Fab Lab as the place to do that. In doing so, Allen was introduced to Director Katie Rast. “When I found Katie she was between spaces. She was just launching the new space in Kearny Mesa and she had no one really as a core volunteer that was going to be there side by side with her helping her … so i kind of fell into that roll. We built the lab together which was technically the second lab, and we ran that for about a year and a half until we moved here so this is version 3 of the lab,” Allen recounts.

Allen soon found himself not only successfully inventing the SandBox 3D printer (the first and only consumer priced powder 3D printer on the market) but involved in a multitude of interesting projects. “Since i’ve joined the lab i’ve worked on museum projects, I’ve consulted for some pretty complicated prototyping projects for startups, and launched our startup program here. That’s what I love about this place. We have biotech, we have crafting, we have startups but we also have non profits. It’s just the stuff that you’re exposed to in here you can’t get too many places in a really condensed environment like this. That’s what I love.”

The beauty of Fab Lab, and what Allen experienced first hand, is the powerful potential behind having the support of a community of makers within reach. “What we focus on and surround ourselves with is merging that gap between never knowing how to make a thing and that intimidation that you feel whenever you’re tackling a project. We try to lower the barriers to getting over that … providing a lot of people who know little bits of a lot of different things and when we come together it really becomes a supportive and really collaborative place.”

Photos and article by Carly Ealey

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