Arkansas Innovation Hub opens micro manufacturing lab to businesses

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 234 views 

Many businesses need to mass produce thousands or tens of thousands of product to make a profit, but there are instances where some only need a few hundred or less of a product. The Arkansas Innovation Hub has opened its micro-manufacturing hub to assist businesses and entrepreneurs that don’t need mass production capabilities.

Micro-manufacturing supports and grows small businesses, startups, product developers and existing industries, said Hub Executive Director Joel Gordon. David Horn will work as the micro-manufacturing lab production manager. Horn will coordinate production, maintenance, workflow, source materials, and cater to customers. AIH is located in North Little Rock.

“This a natural growth beyond the classic makerspace model,” Gordon said.”They will be able to use our services to prototype, create and manufacture small runs of a product or component.”

Micro-manufacturing uses many of the same automated tools as big industry, but on a smaller scale. CNC Mills, laser cutters, and the injection molding processes are performed by 3D Printers. It uses fewer resources more efficiently and lets users decide how much product is needed, and when it’s needed. It’s a combination of old world craftsmanship and new world technologies, according to AIH.

The new lab has a Shapeoko 3 desktop CNC mills, Nomad 883 CNC mill, othermill CNC, easy router industrial CNC, and Bench-top, plastic injection molder. It also has fused deposition modeling 3-D printers, formlabs stereolithography 3-D printers, and laser cutters/engravers.

AIH is a non-profit organization that provides makerspaces and other tools for business people, entrepreneurs, and innovators to develop products. It was seeded in 2015 with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. It works closely with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Manufacturing Solutions.

The Hub has three basic services. The makerspaces provides a variety of support, including cutting-edge equipment and technologies with experienced mentorship, and has design studios that encompass multiple mediums, including pottery/ceramics, painting, drawing, illustration, graphic design, printmaking, and screen printing. Other resources and the professional mentorships are offered. Work spaces for entrepreneurs, looking for an inspiring and collaborative environment to launch their new enterprises are available.

Gordon would like to collaborate with other hubs under consideration around the state, especially in the Delta. Economic developers are contemplating similar hubs in Hardy, Pocahontas, and in southern Missouri.

Arkansas State University in July opened the “Garage,” a creative tinker space meant to provide physical tools to help inventors and entrepreneurs develop prototypes The Garage is part of the Arkansas State Innovation System.

“By providing open access to the tools of advanced manufacturing we provide a solution to the skills gap in the United States,” Joel said. “We hope to see these efforts grow beyond our walls and throughout the state of Arkansas,” Joel said.. “We are particularly interested in partnering with Delta cities that want to develop this model as an economic engine in their communities.”

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