Doors have opened to a gold mine of opportunity for locals with techie vision but a lack of means to make that idea a reality.
MIDAS (Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration Studies) is a multi-million-dollar project that opened to the public with a tour of the Glenmerry space on Wednesday – sessions to use its advanced equipment like 3D printers and laser cutters, are now available.
Known as a “Fab Lab” the Trail facility provides entrepreneurs, students, start-ups and local businesses the hands on chance to work with innovative materials, a base to test out original products, and the means to bring those unique ideas and products back to the market.
A large crowd of groups from across B.C. gathered for the official ribbon cutting, or in this case, clipping of a golden chain – but there was one community member and local business person on hand who shed light on what MIDAS brings to creative young minds as well as the business community as a whole.
Mary Austin wears two hats when it comes to MIDAS – one as a key supporter of a local tech club for youth, the other, as director of business development for Austin Engineering, based in downtown Trail.
“We are lucky to be part of MIDAS in two different ways,” she began. “We are members of the Lower Columbia Tech Club, which is a great way for hobbyists and people at introductory levels of technological awareness to be able to get at MIDAS and experience all different types of high level technology.”
The second way Mary’s involved is through her work – MIDAS provides necessary tools the company requires to be part of the competitive engineering world.
“We have a research space in the back of the building,” she explained. “Right here in Trail, we are able to take the engineering work we do here and throughout British Columbia, and be competitive with national level firms.”
For example, highly technical designs can be swiftly modified using MIDAS technologies.
“We can take 3D printed models of dams we designed for a client, such as the City of Cranbrook and the Idlewild Dam (Idlewild Dam Rehabilitation Project),” she said. “And we are able to present multiple options very quickly, cost effectively, and save our client’s money.
“We can compete with national companies and we get really good responses.”
Though MIDAS is available to both beginner and experienced individuals with either a drop-in fee or monthly membership, users must be 16 years or older.
Additionally, before users are allowed to handle the equipment, competency courses are required. Sessions are between one to three hours, but do not include how to complete unique projects.
The goal of MIDAS courses is to help familiarize the user with the “Fab Lab” and provide the appropriate training to get the most out of the facility and its equipment based on specific needs and requirements.
Other workshops and project courses, usually three to six hours, can provide competency certification for those seeking to create or learn advanced skills with one or more pieces of equipment.
Spearheaded by KAST (Kootenay Association for Science and Technology), there are two main parts to the MIDAS laboratory.
The first is a “digital fabrication laboratory,” (Fab Lab) intended for rapid prototyping and training in additive manufacturing, which is a method of building 3-D objects by adding layer upon layer of material, such as plastic, metal or concrete.
Users will be able to quickly create a model of an item like a mechanical part, for example, using 3D computer-aided design and 3-D printer.
There are also areas focused on electronics, circuit construction, CNC machines, molding, casting, metalwork and woodwork.
Another local research partnership where MIDAS is key, will soon be underway. This one involves the giant on the hill.
Through a $293,000 research partnership and multi-partnered project initiated by KAST, the MIDAS lab will be used by UBCO (University of British Columbia Okanagan) academia to find ways of repurposing smelting byproducts from Teck Trail Operations.
The three-year project challenges university researchers to find ways to sustainably extract and purify metals from lead-zinc smelting byproducts that can then be used by secondary industries in the Kootenays.
“There’s many complex levels to the partnership,” says MIDAS Project Director Amber Hayes. “But that’s part of what makes the project so exciting … to play on the assets the Trail community and our local region already has, and to be able to add value through applied research.”
For more information visit midaslab.ca or visit the site at 2950 Highway Drive in Trail.