Fabrication Lab

Dennis Pierattini

Dennis Pierattini, Fabrication Lab Manager
Email: dennis2@design.upenn.edu

Office Phone: 215-898-4689
Location: Meyerson Hall, 4th Floor Room 409
Mon–Thurs: 8 am—7 pm
Fri: 8 am—4 pm
Sat–Sun: 11 am—6 pm


The PennDesign Fabrication Laboratory is a 3100 square foot woodworking, metalworking and digital fabrication facility located in Room 409 Meyerson Hall. The Lab serves as a practical collaborative extension of classroom theory and is available to all School of Design students as well as all students from other schools who are enrolled in School of Design courses. The Lab is open seven days a week and is fully staffed by professional fabricators who offer individualized and group instruction. A full-view nine-month academic year master calendar detailing holiday closings, hours of operation, etc. is posted in the Lab.

Access to the Lab, including use of the digital fabrication equipment, is contingent upon completion of the Risk Management Department’s mandated Lab Safety Course. No student or faculty member may use the Lab unless they have completed this course. Courses last 2-1/2 hours and are held at multiple times at the beginning of the Fall and Spring semester. Scheduled times will be posted and listserve emailed at the beginning of each semester. These courses are offered only at the beginning of the semester, so completion of the course during one of the posted times is imperative. Because of liability issues, there can be absolutely no exceptions to this rule.
Lab use is restricted to student academic work only. Contract work, work for professional firms, and recreational work would interfere with the educational mission and as a result are not permitted.

The Lab supports all phases of woodworking. It is equipped with a table saw, jointer, planer, panel saw, bandsaws, stationary and hand held sanders, a drill press, miter saw, scroll saw, lathe and a full complement of hand tools. Individualized instruction is provided by the Lab staff who are conversant with construction, joinery, finishing and related aspects of the craft.

Lab metalworking equipment includes dedicated metal bandsaws, drill press, vertical mills, engine lathes, 24” brake, 24” shear, 24” roller, grinders, chop saw, sandblaster and various hand tools. The Lab has no welding equipment. Instruction is provided on a case-by-case basis, including milling, lathing, finishing, and materiality.

The Lab is equipped with two CNC routers, one FDM 3D printer, and three CO2 lasers. All digital fabrication equipment is fully staffed. Students may not operate this equipment, and are expected to format their files appropriately following the guidelines listed on the Lab’s website at http://www.design.upenn.edu/facilities/fabrication-lab. The website provides detailed instructions on file formats and access to this equipment.
To ensure fair and equal access to this limited resource, administrative controls govern the use of this equipment. These policies reflect the Lab philosophy that “all students are equal” with no regard to grade level or department and that “all deadlines are equal” with no regard to who the instructor may be. The administrative controls are designed with this philosophy in mind, metering access during times of peak demand to allow fair and even access while at the same time allowing more open access during periods of lower demand. A full reading of policies is listed on the website, but some of the more salient points follow:

Project size restrictions are 16” x 16” x 3” during periods of peak demand.
Group projects are not allowed.
Projects are milled on a first-come, first-served basis.
Limit one project per student during peak periods.
This equipment cannot be reserved for individual classes.

Project size restrictions are 8” x 8” x 12”.
Parts are printed on a first-come, first-served basis.
STL files only.
Limit one project per student during peak periods.
The proprietary material for this equipment is charged to the student’s account at a subsidized rate of $10/cubic inch.
This equipment cannot be reserved for individual classes.

Laser time is available through a scheduling website (http://www2.design.upenn.edu/cgi-bin/calweb/calweb.exe?cal=Laser_Cutters).
Students may initially sign up for two half-hour timeslots per week and additional timeslots are allowed depending upon demand.

During the academic year, the Lab is open from 8AM to 7PM, Monday through Thursday; from 8AM to 4PM on Friday; and from 11AM to 6PM on Saturday and Sunday. The Lab observes all University holidays as well as Easter. The Lab is open during Spring Break. Closings are detailed on the master calendar posted in the Lab.
During the summer months, the entire Lab staff, except the Lab manager, is furloughed. During those months, the Lab is open from 7:30AM to 3PM, Monday through Friday. The Lab is closed daily from 12:30PM to 1:30PM for lunch and is closed on weekends. There is no digital fabrication for the duration of the summer.
Safety policies require the presence of two Lab staff members during periods of scheduled student use, so any faculty member who intends to assign Lab related projects during the summer months must make arrangements with the Lab manager at least two weeks prior to assignment dates in order to arrange for appropriate staffing. Faculty members must identify a funding source for staffing, with an additional staffing charge for access to digital fabrication resources.
At any given time, there are upwards of 800 students who qualify for access to this limited facility. It is a given that mid-terms and finals are periods of peak demand, so if it is at all possible, please try to schedule lab-intensive projects with this in mind.

The Lab views itself as a point of service to faculty and students. Our goal to provide quality, responsive service in a context of material literacy and process knowledge can best be achieved through collaboration and planning with the faculty. We welcome advance notice of planned Lab usage, including project details, deadlines, underlying theory and expected goals. We offer, by appointment, demonstrations and tutorials on specific fabrication methods and techniques including mold making, digital fabrication, wood joinery, machining, lathe work, vacuum forming and more. The Lab staff is large and talented, comprised mainly of Master’s degree professionals from Fine Arts and Architecture, many of whom teach at other universities.
Please come up to the Lab to get acquainted and to let us know how we might best work together.

Dennis Pierattini
Manager-Fabrication Laboratory
Meyerson Hall Room 409

Please contact me with any questions, specific needs, or other concerns. I am available in the Lab from 8AM to 4PM, Monday through Friday during the academic year. During the summer months, please email me to make arrangements.