DARPA invests $3.5 Million in TechShop for instant fabrication testbeds

Venture Beat – A fundamental tenet of the modern maker movement is that everyone wants to build something. Especially the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Today DARPA took a break from funding next-generation weapons systems, advanced hypersonic aircraft, and frickin’ laser beams to put $3.5 million into TechShop, the paradise for “inventors, makers, hackers, tinkerers, artists … and anyone else who wants to be able to make things that they dream up but don’t have the tools, space or skills.” TechShop currently operates 5 locations around the US, giving members access to a vast array of tools, building space, and lessons.

In authentic military tradition, the project has a funky acronym: iFAB. The Instant Foundry Adaptive through Bits partnership between TechShop, DARPA, and the Department of Veteran Affairs is intended to “create a foundry to rapidly design and reconfigure manufacturing capabilities to support the fabrication of a wide array of military vehicles.”

DARPA – part of the Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) portfolio, is called Instant Foundry Adaptive through Bits (iFAB). iFAB seeks to create a foundry to rapidly design and reconfigure manufacturing capabilities to support the fabrication of a wide array of military vehicles.

Now, thanks to a new collaboration between DARPA, the Department of Veterans Affairs and TechShop, a test-bed will exist to examine new methods and various approaches to creating an effective iFAB. At the same time, the facilities provide a space for innovators to access industrial tools, training and equipment needed to pursue their own ‘make’ ideas without the need for affiliation with a large manufacturer.

Business Week – the Defense Department revealed it will spend $3.5 million to fund two TechShops near Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh. Regular members will work in the facility by day, and then employees of Darpa, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will arrive at midnight to conduct after-hours work. Their mission: to design factories that can be reconfigured on the fly. The project is called iFab. For a month, a given factory might use dozens of machines to make parts for helicopters. Then you reboot the software controlling the machines, and out come the parts for the drive train system in a tank. The Darpa workers at TechShop will try to figure out which tools and methods can be used to rewire factories in this fashion. “They are not there to interact with the general public or look at the ideas people have,” says Nathan Wiedenman, the program manager of Darpa’s tactical technology office. “They are there to work on iFab.”

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