Meet: rLab

Meet: rLab

Located in a commuter belt town 40 miles west of London, rLab has been the hackerspace for Reading, England for nearly six years now. rLab – short for both “Reading Lab” and “Our Lab” – grew out of the monthly Reading Geek Night event in 2011, when a group of programmers, hardware hackers and 3D printer enthusiasts decided to start a hackerspace in Reading. After initially meeting up at a local community center, they moved into their first modest workshop in a storage unit in a suburb of East Reading in late 2011 before upgrading to their current building on an industrial estate in the town center in May 2013.

rLab Maker Manifesto stencil

Maker Manifesto stencil in rLab

Their ground floor is taken up by a large workshop space with wood and metal-working lathes, welding equipment, wood-working tools, a CNC router, and sewing machines, while upstairs there’s an electronics room for soldering and hardware hacking, a “small machines room” with laser cutters and a 3D printer, and a kitchen and chill out space. They host open evenings on Wednesdays where visitors can come and have a tour of the hackerspace, and also run regular themed evenings for hardware hacking and 3D printing projects as well as hosting the monthly Thames Valley RepRap User Group (TVRRUG) meetup and the Reading Repair Cafe.

rLab laser cutter projects

Artworks made with the Piranha A1-sized laser cutter

rLab members work on projects ranging from boat repair to wooden bowl-turning to building LED-covered pole-dancing podiums. They’re also actively involved with other local technology and arts projects such as the Things Network and the Reading Year of Culture 2016, and have collaborated on projects with local organisations including Reading Buses and the Museum of English Rural Life. They’re currently working on making their downstairs workshop more accessible for members with mobility impairments.

rLab has around 120 members and operates on a “pay-what-you-can” monthly subscription basis. If you’re interested in joining, go along to their Wednesday open evening and speak to somebody about signing up.

rLab building

The front of the rLab building