Nicolene McKenzie travels from Nelson to Trail to use MIDAS’ state-of-the-art technology. McKenzie is a recent graduate of industrial design and says the facility is providing her hands on experience with otherwise inaccessible high end tools such as 3D printers

MIDAS Fab Lab, a golden opportunity

The MIDAS Fab Lab has become an integral part of creative and innovative regional community, including 150 high school students.

As the Fab Lab says, “incubators aren’t just for chicks anymore.”

That said, there has been a flock of newbie techies walking through the front doors of MIDAS every week since the state-of-the-art facility opened in Trail last fall.

Known as “Mr. Technology,” Lab Director Brad Pommen has introduced almost 1,000 people from all walks of life to the Glenmerry space even on a snowy Friday evening (Feb. 3) nine people were signed up for a laser cutting and 3D printing tutorial.

“Since opening, we’ve run 218 people through courses and just over 600 in tours,” Pommen began. “And I just ran 150 high school students, from J.L. Crowe and Stanley Humphries, through here over two days.”

MIDAS (Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration Studies) is a multimillion-dollar technology base that offers its membership the skills and courses required to operate advanced machines such as 3D printers, 3D scanners, laser cutters and CNC milling equipment.

Equipment examples, courtesy of MIDAS

The lab is available to beginner and advanced learners over the age of 16. No matter the level of expertise, however, all users must complete a competency course designed to get them using one or more pieces of the costly equipment. Safety precautions are posted and respective manuals are on hand, however, Pommen and the MIDAS floor staff are always nearby to ensure each machine is used safely after all, the equipment is top notch and worth at least a half million dollars.

So it’s not a stretch to say that creative minds and innovators in the region, like Nicolene McKenzie, Mich Duvernet and Eric Holloway, would be limited in terms of technological opportunity without the regional MIDAS ‘fab’rication space.

The Trail Times dropped by the facility during a blustery Friday afternoon (Feb. 3), curious about who actually uses the lab on a typical day as well as the “why” such sophisticated equipment is needed. All three people in the digital laboratory drove over an hour on slushy roads to get to the Trail site, and all three were intensely focused on their prototype design.

Nicolene McKenzie is a recent graduate from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. After completing the Industrial Design Program, she moved back to her hometown of Nelson for a bit of a breather while exploring her next career move.

MIDAS fits into the picture as a vital resource the young designer needs to up her game with hands-on experience.

“I was very familiar with 3D printing, laser cutting and the CNC machine,” McKenzie explained. “But the program (Emily Carr) was very busy, and I didn’t get a lot of chance (to use the equipment). So I am looking to explore this area more, and how I can bring that to my practice which is designing products, as well as my artistic practice.”

She found out about the Trail facility through word of mouth, recently completed the “Shopbot CNC” course, and was walking through the program that afternoon.

“For me this will be more hands on, because at school we sent our (design) files to the technician and they did the work,” she said. “Today I am going to try cutting out some basic shapes to use for jewelry or tile designs -this is my first time so it is exciting for me.”

Seated at another table that afternoon were two friends from Winlaw.

Originally from Ottawa, Mich Duvernet, a former ski guide, brought along computer savvy Eric Holloway. They also recently completed the Shopbot CNC course and were gearing up to begin prototyping a lighting fixture.

The digital fabrication laboratory or “Fab Lab” is intended for rapid prototyping and training in additive manufacturing, which is a method of building 3D objects by adding layer upon layer of material, such as plastic, metal, wood or concrete.

Users are able to quickly create a model of an item like a mechanical part, for example, using 3D computer-aided design and 3D printer. Electronics, circuit construction, CNC machines, molding, casting, metalwork and woodwork are other areas of focus.

“We are working on a lighting design that I am bringing to market,” said Duvernet. “I’ve been doing a lot of this kind of stuff, like the finicky bits and pieces by hand. Since I know<span cla

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Katrine Conroy has won for the fifth time in the Kootenay West riding. Photo: Submitted
Katrine Conroy ready to tackle challenges after election

Conroy won the Kootenay West riding for the fifth time

Logan Terness made 31 saves to backstop the Trail Smoke Eaters to a 4-2 victory over the Cranbrook Bucks on Saturday at the Cominco Arena. Jim Bailey photo.
Trail Smoke Eaters double up Bucks, take Game 3 of Kootenay Cup

The Trail Smoke Eaters Chase Dafoe scored the game winner in a 4-2 victory over Cranbrook Saturday

Katrine Conroy
Katrine Conroy declared winner in Kootenay West

Preliminary results put NDP candidate firmly in the lead.

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health sees 31 new cases of COVID-19 over record-breaking weekend

Eighty-six cases remain active and one person is hospitalized with the virus

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

Most Read