By Péralte C. Paul
In a bid to address the needs of entrepreneurs making physical hardware, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) is launching a design studio.
Set to open April 16, the roughly 1,800-square-foot space on the second floor of the Centergy building in Tech Square will focus on what ATDC recognized as a growing trend in Atlanta’s startup community.
“The technology startup space isn’t solely software; it’s hardware, too,” said ATDC Director Stephen Fleming. “The design studio reflects ATDC’s commitment to meet the needs of entrepreneurs who need help and guidance to make physical prototypes and a space with their peers where they can do it.”
The design studio, which opens after several months of planning and build-out, was made possible via a nearly $200,000 investment from the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA). The Atlanta-based nonprofit’s main charge is to promote economic development across the state by leveraging the research capabilities of Georgia’s universities.
“The Georgia Research Alliance and ATDC have a proven track record of helping to launch successful companies in Georgia,” said Michael Cassidy, GRA’s president and CEO. “The design studio will provide Georgia’s newest manufacturing companies the tools to create and build products of the future.”
GRA’s investment covered the purchase of equipment, which includes:
- two 3D printers
- an RTV molding and casting area
- a small mill
- a lathe
- a drill press
- a band saw
- a stereo microscope
- an electronics bench
- a CAD workstation
In addition, Big Blue Saw, a laser and waterjet cutting custom parts maker and ATDC Community member, donated a laser cutter to the design studio.
The design studio is partitioned into two separate areas: Level 1 and Level 2. It is done for safety, and access to both areas is restricted and available only via RFID readers.
Level 1 will include tools and equipment typically considered safe. The Level 2 area will house tools and equipment that require a more highly skilled operator.
“The design studio is all about for-profit entrepreneurial concerns and pushing them forward,” said ATDC Community Catalyst Jenny Bass, who counsels ATDC Select companies that have a manufacturing focus. “The GRA realized the importance of a space where entrepreneurs can rapidly iterate their products and speed their time to market.”
Hardware entrepreneurs will have access to design studio equipment while getting the technical expertise and industry knowledge from ATDC staff, including Shane Matthews, the incubator’s professional advisor who will run it, Bass said.
The space will be open to ATDC Select companies and, by invitation, to certain startups designated as ATDC Community members.
Those using the equipment will be charged a market rate for materials used.
ATDC’s move reflects the growing demand in Atlanta and elsewhere for incubators to increase efforts toward supporting hardware and product-focused companies.
Some of that demand comes as manufacturing is coming back to the United States. It also is fueled by the Internet of Things — where physical objects are embedded with electronics, software, or sensors to transmit data. The rising interest in 3D printing also is driving its growth, Bass said.
The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) is one of the nation’s oldest and largest university-based startup incubators. ATDC, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, has graduated about 150 companies from its program. ATDC is a unit of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s chief economic development and business outreach arm.
For additional information, visit www.atdc.org.