Inuvik’s Arts, Crafts and Technology Micro-Manufacturing Centre is re-branded itself to the INNOVATE Centre for Arts, Crafts and Technology.

The name is the only thing that is changing at the local resource, which has been serving Inuvik and the Beaufort Delta since 2017.

“It’s taken some time for things to grow organically, but it’s growing,” said technician Juan Bidegain, who added the staff at INNOVATE are there to help teach the technology to members. “I’m good at the technical side of things, but I’m not so good at the creative.”

Established by way of a partnership between Aurora College, the Gwich’in Tribal Council and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, with funding from Industry Tourism and Investment, which was then leveraged into a grand from the Canadian Northern Economic Development agency and ultimately a $2 million investment from the Natural Sciences and Research Council in 2019.

A series of 3D printers and high-end photo printers are demonstrated by INNOVATE Centre for Arts, Crafts and Technology technician Juan Bidegain. The 3D printers use biodegradable plant-based plastics, so they won’t contribute to plastics in the oceans. Eric Bowling/NNSL media

All that funding has gone a long way, with the centre boasting several pieces of high-end manufacturing equipment for its membership to use. These include laser engravers, vinyl cutters — capable of cutting moose hide, a silk screener, a serger, sewing machines, a ten-colour embroidery machine, a sublimation printer, high-end photo printers, 3D printers which use a biodegradable and plant-based plastic, a CNC router and fully operational carpentry shop with power sanders and a table saw and a touch screen monitor for drawing digital artwork. It also stocks supplies such as sheets of vinyl, t-shirts and numerous types of merchandise ready for branding.

There also is a job board for members to peruse, in the event someone wants to make an order of a product such as mugs, t-shirts or ceramic tiles.

Serving as both a professional centre for businesses and as a hobby shop, the centre has two corresponding membership types. A commercial membership, which is given priority access to machines and staff, costs $150 a month. A hobbyist membership costs $75.

Commercial membership holders are also able to book out equipment for large jobs, effectively turning the centre into their own workshop.

One of the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines available for use at the INNOVATE Centre for Arts, Crafts and Technology. Technician Juan Bidegain said the machines can carve precise items out of wood and can cut through up to an inch thick depending on the material used. Eric Bowling/NNSL photo

“Reducing your overhead to $150 a month is unheard of,” said Bidegain. “This allows a small business to compete with larger companies further south.”

Visit the centre at 68 Veterans Way in Inuvik, NT. It’s open to members from Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The centre is closed from 12 to 1 p.m. on Mondays.

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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