Ask Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) where employees will come up with ideas for some of the nation's most critical aerospace technologies, and the answer you'll likely get is "FabLab," shorthand for the Fabrication Laboratory, which opened this month at the company's Space Park facility.
Company officials, civic leaders and hundreds of employees were on hand for the grand opening of the 5,500-square-foot laboratory that was inspired and developed by the employees themselves. It promises to give both engineers and non-engineers a space to share concepts, innovate and hatch the next big idea.
"FabLab is founded on the grassroots spirit of invention at the heart of Northrop Grumman's culture," said Peggy Nelson, vice president, engineering and global product development, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "Built by and for employees, it will give them hands-on access to a range of tools, equipment and materials, and the freedom to turn their ideas into reality. We're really excited to see what new ideas will emerge from this environment of imagination, collaboration and opportunity."
The creation and launch of FabLab was a labor of love by a group of more than 70 employees who suggested that the company create the space. Tony Long, a radio frequency/microwave design engineer who spearheaded the effort, believes that such innovation spaces are central to new concepts gaining momentum across the aerospace industry.
By design, FabLab's creative energy makes functionality and fun converge. Quotes by innovators such as Einstein and Tesla cover one wall. A collaboration space features comfortable chairs, carpeting and a wall that doubles as a whiteboard for brainstorming.
The manufacturing space itself boasts a full complement of tools and equipment. Employees can fabricate metal using jet lathes and a jet milling machine. A large selection of saws enables all manner of woodwork. Electronics work can be accomplished using the optical bench and soldering station, while the 3-D printer allows rapid prototyping of parts and models that could impact existing programs.
"FabLab is not a 'nice-to-have,' it's a smart business investment," Long said. "By empowering innovators to create intellectual property, accelerate technology and improve design, we can better meet our customers' needs."
Source: Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC)
Date: Oct 24, 2014