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October 1, 2013

Lab to provide Purdue entrepreneurs space to refine concepts, build prototypes

Artisan and Fabrication Lab

Students work on prototypes in the Purdue Artisan and Fabrication Lab in the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering. The laboratory has six areas where faculty, staff and students can build prototypes of their innovations or complete projects for required coursework. (Purdue University photo)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University will open its Artisan and Fabrication Lab so that more faculty, staff and student entrepreneurs can use the space to build prototypes of their products.

The 4,000-square-foot Artisan and Fabrication Lab opened in 2009 and has been used by College of Engineering students for hands-on coursework projects. It is considered one of the country's premier university-based, supervised prototyping facilities.

Through a collaboration among Purdue's College of Engineering, College of Technology, the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship and the Foundry, the facility, while continuing to be available for students doing projects for coursework, will additionally be available for all faculty, staff and student innovators campus-wide who need to build a prototype for their innovation. The facility will extend its hours from 40 to 60 hours a week, including weekend hours, beginning Oct. 23 to support the additional use of fabrication areas. An open house will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon on that day and will include facility tours.

"Many Purdue entrepreneurs drive nearly two hours south and must rent space to build prototypes," said Dan Hasler, president and chief entrepreneurial officer for the Purdue Research Foundation. "They often have neither the time nor funds to do this, so this service will provide a tremendous resource to help Purdue startups move products to the public."

Kara McManus, a mechanical engineering senior from Cincinnati, has regularly used the lab for classwork.

"The artisan lab is an important resource for students because we are learning how to use cutting-edge technology that is used in industries," she said. "Just knowing how to use this type of equipment gives us an edge in the job market."

Purdue's Artisan and Fabrication Lab is based in the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, 701 W. Stadium Ave., West Lafayette. It offers space dedicated to various stages of prototype development including designing, building, testing, evaluating and refining.

"Purdue is an international leader in educating future engineers and offering hands-on, team-oriented opportunities for students. The Artisan and Fabrication Lab is an important factor in their success," said Leah Jamieson, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering. "Through this collaboration, we are able to expand the use of this space to help more Purdue innovators bring their inventions to life."

Gary Bertoline, dean of the College of Technology, said expanding the hours could enhance the student learning experience and entrepreneurial spirit.

"The Purdue community is expressing a stronger interest in forming their own companies, and using the fabrication lab will not only help entrepreneurs, but yields the opportunity to work directly with other like-minded Purdue entrepreneurs," he said.

The fabrication spaces in the facility include:

* An innovation lab where students can project their designs on a floor-to-ceiling whiteboard from photos taken on smartphones or other electronic devices.

* A prototyping studio that includes 3-D printers that can print working tools like a wrench or other objects. Starting with a CAD drawing, innovators can go from concept to a physical model with the 3- D printers in a matter of hours.

* An artisan laboratory for working with wood, plastics and similar materials, using a CNC router, wood saws, a drill press and large layout tables and an area for working on electronic prototypes such as building circuits, wire harnesses and working with electronic instrumentation.

* A fabrication laboratory that houses computer numerical control lathes and mills, a water-jet cutting system, welding setups, horizontal and vertical band saws, a drill press, and layout tables where users can begin assembling parts.

* A room with a ventilation hood for working with paints, glues, epoxies and similar materials.

* A demonstration studio that houses six CAD/CAM stations where innovators can design parts to be built in the Artisan and Fabrication Lab and generate programs that run the computer numerical control machines. The stations also have a computer numerical control machine interface to generate simulations of the parts innovators will create in the computer numerical control machine.

For more information on the Artisan and Fabrication Lab, visit https://engineering.purdue.edu/aflapps/ 

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, 765-588-3340, casequin@prf.org 

Sources: Dan Hasler, 765-588-3826, djhasler@purdue.edu 

Leah Jamieson, 765-494-5346, lhj@purdue.edu 

Gary Bertoline, 765-494-2552, bertoline@purdue.edu