Reston is fully onboard with the new “Makers” movement sprouting throughout the country. In fact recently our very own NOVA Markers Workshop participated in a “Faire” ..the French verb “to-make,” at the South Lakes High School, demonstrating the capabilities of a 3-D printer. This week, I stopped in to visit and was invited in to the workshop of embedded software developer Bob Coggeshall, whose company Small Batch Assembly produces all kinds of cool items beyond my practical ability to describe. That day, he happened to be directing a remarkable German machine to assemble customized electronic circuit boards for a client who is building r2d2 type robots. The view was circuit board “deconstructed;” in other words, one could see all the individual components that go into defining what the circuit board will accomplish, down to the tiniest little parts…all of which are fed on what look like old movie tape reels, into this machine which analyzes all the measurements per the software code that Bob programs and arranges each in its proper place to build the desired functionality. This includes capacitors, resistors, SD card sockets, integrated circuits, etc. The client sends Bob a plastic container of all the “supplies” –most produced cheaply in China. Bob checks the inventory against the requirements for the desired customization, programs the machine using the Autotronik SMT Placement System software by Mancorp and painstakingly monitors the process as the machine assesses, precisely registers, delicately picks up (vacuum pressure) and installs each little part that will combine to produce the circuit board. I stopped by to check out the Lab and was lucky to see a live-action demonstration!
NOVA Labs offers an array of equipment, space and classes for hobbyists and small-scale professionals. The lab offers use of a laser-cutter that can also engrave, a 3-D printer with different material options, and all kinds of equipment. One of their most popular groups builds drones. I highly recommend a visit. Learn more at http://www.meetup.com/NOVA-Makers/