The Factory is a makerspace offering digital fabrication courses and product design and manufacturing services from a shiny new business park on the edge of the Knowle West housing estate in Bristol.
The Factory is part of the Knowle West Media Centre, a charitable arts organisation that has been supporting the local community in Knowle West since the 1990s. Knowle West is an area of economic deprivation, and the recent closure of local factories has led to high levels of unemployment. As part of KWMC, The Factory runs workshops to teach Knowle West residents digital fabrication and product design skills, organises training programs for local companies, works with local schools, and even has a mobile makerspace that they can use to take digital fabrication tools out into the community.
The Factory as a physical makerspace grew out of a couple of successful earlier KWMC projects: Do What You Love, which supported local people to start up new community enterprises by teaching them sustainable digital technology skills; and the Eagle House Pop-Up Furniture Factory, which trained and employed local residents to manufacture CNC’d furniture for the new Filwood Green Business Park opening in the area. When the business park opened in 2015, The Factory moved in and opened a training space for teaching digital fabrication skills and a workshop for designing and manufacturing products.
The Factory houses high-end manufacturing equipment including an A1-sized laser cutter, a large format CNC router, and a delta 3D printer. It runs workshops and courses that teach digital design and fabrication skills, and its machines can also be hired on an hourly basis for prototyping and product manufacturing. Products made at The Factory include flat pack furniture and laser cut jewellery, and The Factory’s team of technicians can also design and produce professional commissioned pieces.
Although The Factory doesn’t offer membership, it has a residency program that also functions as a business incubator and its laser cutter is available to hire for anyone who has passed a basic induction course.