(Columbia Basin) – Local entrepreneurs, students, academics and makers will be able to work with innovative materials, test out original products and get help bringing unique ideas and products to market at a new laboratory in Trail.
Known as MIDAS, the laboratory will help create new business opportunities, expand the skill sets of people who live here and increase regional competitiveness. It is being financed in part by up to $850,000 over four years from Columbia Basin Trust.
MIDAS stands for Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration and Studies, and is being spearheaded by the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST). There are two main parts to the laboratory.
The first is a fab lab, or “digital fabrication laboratory,” 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—for example, a mechanical part or a snowboard—using 3-D computer-aided design and a 3-D printer. There will also be areas focused on electronics, laser cutting, molding, casting, metalwork and woodwork.
Companies and researchers can also explore commercial uses for metallurgical and chemical materials at MIDAS. KAST and partners will provide research-and-development and business-development services via the research organization Mitacs and the BC Venture Acceleration Program; if a new product developed in the lab has commercial potential, these services can help it reach the market successfully.
“In our region, with our metals expertise, MIDAS will enable us to use materials in new and novel ways that will provide us with a competitive advantage,” said Amber Hayes, MIDAS Project Director. “It will also provide businesses with the opportunity to get prototypes made locally—they have to be made elsewhere now. And it will allow us to train local people on how to use this equipment, which will be a high-demand skill as new technologies change the way manufacturing is being done.”
“This collaborative project will bring all sorts of people together—business people, students and researchers—to increase expertise and innovation in our region,” said Johnny Strilaeff, Columbia Basin Trust Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer. “We have so much local talent and so many resources, and with MIDAS we’ll also have the physical space and equipment. The potential for meaningful economic impact is exciting.”
The MIDAS lab is currently under construction, with specialized equipment training opportunities available. MIDAS will welcome the public in September 2016. To follow the development of the lab and learn more about the technologies, like the MIDAS Facebook page at facebook.com/midasfablab.
In addition to KAST and the Trust, MIDAS is supported by Community Futures of Greater Trail, Fenix Advanced Materials, Western Economic Diversification, Selkirk College and the Rural Development Institute, University of British Columbia Okanagan, Mitacs, BC Innovation Council, Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust, Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society and the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation.