Kerala to host 2 fab labs! MIT to collaborate with state on super fab lab

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Published: January 23, 2020 1:10:39 AM

The super fab lab, which will be inaugurated next week in Kochi, will allow researchers, innovators and developers to do things beyond the purview of the state’s existing fab labs.

Kerala, Fab lab, Super fab lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, Kerala Startup Mission, KSUM, Design fabrication technology, Kochi, Research, Saji Gopinath, Machine That Make project, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Electronics hardware, Maker Village,Biotech, Bio-NestThe first experiment in this direction has been successfully completed at the Fab Lab in Thiruvananthapuram.

Kerala will soon be home to two fab labs, including a super fab lab completed in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), officials of state-run Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) said on Wednesday. The mini and super version of the technical prototyping platform for design fabrication technology will be the world’s first such facility to function outside of the US.

The super fab lab, which will be inaugurated next week in Kochi, will allow researchers, innovators and developers to do things beyond the purview of the state’s existing fab labs.

Dr Saji Gopinath, CEO, KSUM, said the collaboration with MIT will also allow Kerala’s hardware start-ups to use the super fab lab and work with MIT’s Centre for Bits and Atoms on a Machine That Make project. “This explores the possibility of using machines in a fab lab to create machines for its own use. In essence, it creates a pathway to desktop manufacturing,” he added.

The upcoming super fab lab at ISC, 20 km north of here, will have state-of-the-art machines worth more than `7 crore in an area of 10,000 sq ft.

Kerala today has two electronic fab labs, functioning at Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. The super fab lab at Kochi will make ISC one of the country’s most sought-after investment hubs, coming as it is after electronics hardware incubator Maker Village and its biotech counterpart Bio-Nest.

The first experiment in this direction has been successfully completed at the Fab Lab in Thiruvananthapuram with the creation of a 3-axis CNC machine. KSUM is positioned to lead the transition of the MTM project from research projects in the lab to fully functioning units in the field. “In doing so, we become the epicentre for technology start-ups around machine design and manufacturing besides support the creation of digital fabrication labs across India,” Dr Gopinath noted. “This is an opportunity for us to rekindle the state’s hardware industry and intellect.”

Besides being hardware innovation centres, Kerala’s existing Fab Labs have become a platform for students, faculty and entrepreneurs in the state to learn the ropes of digital fabrication. These fab labs also provide innovators the capability to rapidly prototype their ideas and create bespoke solutions. Two of the most notable start-ups who made use of Fab Lab facilities are GenRobotics, which created a sewage cleaning robot named Bandicoot, and EyeRov that created the country’s first underwater robotic drone (EyeRov Tuna).

The super lab adds a set of highly-specialised machines that can do small to mid-volume manufacturing and can also be used for prototyping with a variety of materials including metals, composites and carbon fibres, besides testing, design and fabrication equipment and materials that cover length scales spanning from microns to meters in fabrication size, the KSUM sources said.

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