Ron Perepolkin

Trail Fab Lab set to open doors this fall

MIDAS digital prototyping Fab Lab research facility is gearing up for its grand opening in September.

Opening up new areas for others introducing into reality something better than before.

That’s the definition of innovation and the goal of a new research facility in Trail, or “Fab Lab.”

MIDAS (Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration & Studies) is a multi-million Glenmerry-based project that supports skills training and entrepreneurial development through the commercialization of of new technologies and services in the region.

After a $308,000 cash injection from Community Futures (CFDC) Greater Trail, the KAST-led MIDAS vision will become real life in September when the digital prototyping “Fab Lab” opens to the general public.

“MIDAS will be the regional hub for project-based, hands-on STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics),” says Don Freschi, general manager for CFDC Greater Trail. “MIDAS partners with educational institutions and targets university graduates for applied metallurgical research and development right here in Trail. By promoting skills training in digital fabrication and metallurgical technology, we can attract bright minds to Trail and provide opportunities to keep our talented youth in the area.”

The research facility has the tools and technology to make just about anything, said Ron Perepolkin, CFDC project coordinator, during a Wednesday media tour of the site.

Freschi gave the example of a drone, which is essentially, a flying robot.

A drone can be brought in, scanned on a 3D scanner and the schematic brought up on a MIDAS computer. Then engineering modifications like a new motor or circuit board can be produced in house, and the prototype brought back to the market.

“It’s rapid prototype not production,” he said. “That’s the difference, (MIDAS) is an innovation centre.”

As a not-for-profit, the Community Futures board felt the MIDAS facility is a huge economic driver for the area, Freschi added. “And it’s a model that other communities are going to look forward to and try to model after.”

Fab Lab memberships will be available to the general public this fall. Fab Lab members can learn by working on items of personal or business interest through a cycle of envision, design, prototype, reflect, and iterate as they find solutions to challenges or bring new ideas to life.

Empowered by the “maker experience”, members mentor other members to help them learn about the machines, materials, design process, and engineering which go into invention and innovation to help bring their project to life.

“Having just finished ordering over $430,000 in equipment, I believe we have the tools and technology to create just about anything,” said Perepolkin.

Those include a well-stocked electronics lab, a 3D design centre for scanning and 3D printing, a laser cutter, and assorted programmable CNC machines such as ShopBots, plasma cutter, lathes and mills. Shops for woodworking, metalworking, molding and casting, as well as a learning centre for design and skills training are also on site.

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