Santa Cruz Sentinel article, June 5th, 2015

Idea Fab Labs announces debut at Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp

SANTA CRUZ >> On Friday, Santa Cruz will get a new social space for digital fabrication, Idea Fab Labs.

The announcement came Wednesday night at the Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp, which is the hot spot for any new tech business in Santa Cruz and which brought more than 230 people to the Del Mar Theatre downtown.

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Founder Doug Erickson was stuck in Boston, so Amanda Rotella and Mark Adams took over as co-hosts after an hour of networking and the sweet harmonies of Cloud 9, an a cappella group from UC Santa Cruz.

Idea Fab Labs will open on the second floor of the old Wrigley Building, 2879 Mission St. on the Westside.

The idea came from Erin Banwell, 36, who opened first in Chico, and in 30 months grew the enterprise to 95 members, giving people a place to work on electronics, woodshop projects, 3-D printing and laser cutting, to name a few.

The venture is funded by private investors.

There are no employees but 23 volunteers help out in exchange for a membership discount.

Not everybody knows how to operate everything and mentoring is available, Banwell said, emphasizing the community aspect.

About 15 percent of the participants are women, he said.

He started an artist in residence program that brought 11 artists, including one from Brazil, to learn how to use the equipment and create new cutting-edge art pieces.

Two of Banwell’s buddies, Shannon Stillman, 38, and Corey Patterson, 35, who have been working at the Chico location, will run the Santa Cruz space.

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Stillman, former art director for Metro Santa Cruz, is particularly excited about a CNC computer-controlled router that can cut through wood, plastic and acrylic. There also will be areas to work on jewelry and textiles, a laser cutter and 3-D printer.

“Girls will have a blast, trust me,” said Patterson.

People can buy memberships at different levels, depending on how much equipment they want to use.

MakerSpace membership is $45 a month, Fab membership $90 a month, and pro membership covering all areas $120 per month.

“What we need is your usable stuff, your woodshop stuff, plywood, Sheetrock, your old vises,” said Stillman. “We will reuse and love your stuff.”

Co-host Adams said he plans to be among the first members. He’s been driving to the Tech Shop in San Jose to “noodle around” on the CNC router and laser cutters because there hasn’t been anything similar in Santa Cruz.


Banwell, Stillman and Patterson will be filling that void.

Ed Gaudet, general manager at Imprivata, shared how his company is solving a problem in health care, the switch from paper to electronic records and maintaining patient privacy.

“How painful it is when a doctor (you’re seeing) spends time in front of the keyboard typing?” he asked, explaining that Imprivata simplifies the task of signing into a computer.

“Doctors and nurses in a 10-hour shift sign in 120 to 150 times,” he said, noting doctors use pager technology from 1965 instead of iPhone texts because of patient privacy. “Down the street at the Cooper House, we built a system that enables secure communication.”

When someone has a heart attack and needs treatment by a specialized team at a hospital in 60 minutes, corralling all the professionals needed can be accomplished in 15 instead of 45 minutes.

“I like to say we’re saving lives,” Gaudet said.

Imprivata is based in Boston and employs 420 people including about 20 in Santa Cruz. The company went public last year and is valued at $100 million, Gaudet said, adding, “We are looking for Android developers.”

Afterward, attendees stayed to talk about job and investment opportunities.

The tech meetup will take a break in July and return in August.

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