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Columbus Idea Foundry Attracts Builders; Artists

Occupying 20-thousand square feet at the end of Corrugated Way off Fifth Avenue, the Columbus Idea Foundry is home to some 35 engineers, fabricators, artists and do-it-yourselfers. After a move to its present location, one expansion and another planned, perhaps no one is more surprised by its success than its founder. Three years ago metallurgist Alex Bandar started a workshop and design center for like-minded people who wanted to design and build things, people who loved to tinker with new ideas but perhaps lacked the proper tools. Bandar says he spent two years "yelling into the wind" appealing to wood workers before realizing they probably owned all the tools they needed to ply their craft. "But once we went to higher capital-intensive resources like welding where you need expensive machines, you need tanks you need large table and fixtures...that's not something a lot of people have in their basement, in their garage. And suddenly people started coming in and taking our classes." It wasn't long before Bandar says people wanted to rent space. "And that was what allowed us to finally expand into the location we're in now and in fact continue expanding. Now the Idea Foundry has a dues-paying membership of 60 people, 35 to 40 of whom rent space. Like most Idea Foundry members Dylan Paul and Levi Crumley have-full time, day jobs. But the two are passionate about building things and learning how to use new equipment. Dylan Paul says they divide their time at the Foundry working on their own ideas and fabricating work for clients of their small company ReFab. "Right now we're working on our arcade machine purely for personal and for reasons that we just want to demonstrate our skills, Inititally it's about building a portfolio and we just think that a lot of the things that we can do here are not necessarily commissioned by someone but there to demontrate the things that we hope someday will be commissioned by someone." And Levi Crumley says they're working on a more futuristic project than the arcade game. "We got the virtual spokesperson over here which is sort of a projected onto a human shaped medium that looks like a hologram talking to you." Columbus College of Art and Design student Scott Stewart look to people like Crumley and Paul for guidance. As an intern at the Idea Foundry Stewart is provided with space and tool time instead of the pay he might receive at a traditional design firm. But he says there are advantages.  . "With industrial designers a lot of it's actually an office. It's very clean, sterile. It's computers or on paper. A lot of stuff gets shopped out on prototype. But here it's more of a hands-on from, you know, sketch to prototype. It all happens here." Starting out as a small facility for friends to pool tools, the Columbus Idea Foundry now offers classes, rents studio space, manufactures products for individuals and small businesses and has delved into some research and development. But says manager Matt Bowman the people are its greatest asset. "Being in this type of space with this many people is solidifying a community that's maybe been sitting in the fringes waiting to come together in Central Ohio." The Columbus Idea Foundry has proved so popular there's a waiting list to get in. Bowman and Bandar say there's another expansion planned for the end of this month or the beginning of October.