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The Foundry is a space for creativity

Two color orange horizontal divider
multiple spools of thread
The Foundry is a makerspace full of 3D printers, laser cutters, and digitial embroidery machines. Photo by Joshua Guenther

On the third floor of the Fine Arts Library at The University of Texas at Austin, staffers, faculty members and students, regardless of their roles on campus, can find tools to print gravity-defying sculptures, carve printable circuit boards or embroider customized logos.

The Foundry is a makerspace full of 3D printers, laser cutters, digital embroidery machines, a recording studio and more, almost all of which are free to use for teaching, research or just a creative side project. Arts and Creative Technologies librarian Boris Brodsky says the Foundry was created to be accessible.

“Libraries are all about places for knowledge creation,” Brodsky says. “You could come in, come out, use our resources and write a paper or do your research. This is a natural extension of all that, and we want to create access to equipment that people wouldn’t be able to access anywhere else.”

Planning for the Foundry began in 2015 when former Fine Arts librarian Laura Schwartz and Arts and Entertainment Technologies director Bruce Pennycook wrote a grant proposal to the Hearst Foundation in New York, which Brodsky says contributed $200,000 to the space. It opened the following year.

The Foundry is designed to inspire collaboration, Brodsky says. People using the tools in the open workspace can talk about what they’re working on, which he says leads to partnering on future projects.

“We get a cross-pollination of ideas that way,” he says. “Since we’re a teaching space, we require that you pretty much stay here. We’re not a print service.”

Three women looking at small 3D printed models.
From left, School of Social Work staff members Eva Ebert, Sara Dube and Micaela McDonald look through souvenir 3D prints. Photo by Joshua Guenther

In addition to the three bays of 3D printers, laser cutters, and sewing and embroidery machines, the Foundry has a vinyl cutter and several high-powered Apple Mac Pros that are equipped with 3D-rendering and animation software.

The recording studio, in the opposite corner of the library, houses professional-grade equipment for making music, podcasts or other audio projects. Library specialist and musician Mark Doroba says this space and equipment are easy and effective to use.

“It’s a great space,” Doroba says. “We love having people work on projects here, and I think people are really appreciative of it. Most of the people who come say, ‘Man, I didn’t know this was here. This is so amazing.’”

The Foundry offers these tools and provides training that must be completed before using the equipment.

Amber Welch, head of Technology Enhanced Learning for UT Libraries, says Foundry staff members are trained to foster a welcoming atmosphere for patrons regardless of experience level. This inclusivity extends to all users, be they faculty teaching in the space or staff members and students using it to complete personal projects such as quilts, 3D-printed replicas and laser-cut wooden Mother’s Day cards.

“We make sure that they’re comfortable with the technology, and then our role in that scenario is just to provide them with a space,” Welch says.

A 3D model of the UT Tower.
Want your own UT Tower? You can make a small version on a 3D printer at the Foundry. Photo by Joshua Guenther

The Foundry is located in the Doty Fine Arts Building. All equipment except the vinyl cutter is free to use after completing training. To learn more, visit the Foundry’s website.