A Place Like No Other
A Q&A with Kay Yang, Director of the Advanced Prototyping Center
A water-powered cutter that can slice through steel, a room full of 3-D printers, a cell lab, a DNA replicator. These are just a few of the specialty-grade pieces of equipment that reside within the Advanced Prototyping Center, located at La Kretz Innovation Campus in the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles.
The Advanced Prototyping Center (APC) is a collection of professional-grade labs that offer entrepreneurs and startups the chance to test their prototypes and make products.
It’s a place where entrepreneurs can use state-of-the-art tools.
They can test, experiment, try new things, and craft more professional-grade prototypes of their products.
This can be of great value to young companies, who often spend a lot of money and time just getting a single working prototype of their idea together.
The equipment in the Lab is cutting edge; some of it can be found on university campuses, but to have all of these labs, machines, and tools together in one place, available to the public is what sets the APC apart.
The Center’s director Kay Yang knows the importance of testing, experimenting, and perfecting products — for both the private and public sectors.
Yang has a Masters in Industrial Engineering and before coming to LACI, she worked for a small biotech company, working on contracts for the United States Department of Defense. She also previously worked in the commercial sector in product development at Mattel. She’s well-versed in taking a product from concept to manufacturing to an item on the shelves for consumers to buy.
Yang also previously started her own company, working on getting more young girls into STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).
Now she heads up one of L.A.’s leading labs.
We asked Yang key questions about the Center, what it offers startups, and how it plans to develop over the next year.
In your own words, what is the Advanced Prototyping Center exactly?
The Advanced Prototyping Center is a place like no other. It’s a space where inventors, entrepreneurs, research scientists, artists and creators can come in and create a product. Our facility is state of the-art so there are no limits, our members can build pre-production prototypes or do small batch manufacturing within our facility.
What makes the Advanced Prototyping Center unique?
Machinists walk into the APC and their jaws drop. The labs here really are comparable to those found at universities. We’re not just a machine shop but also a biochemistry research lab, welding shop, cut and sew center and print shop.
We’re giving startups truly professional grade tools, allowing them to function like Fortune 500 companies [in terms of testing and creating products].
In addition, we offer entrepreneurs the chance to learn how to use them.
What is offered within the Center? And what equipment is in there?
A wet lab, a cell lab, an electronics lab, the machine shop, a center for welding, a place for cutting and sewing, and a 3-D printing center.
We offer microscopes that can analyze things on a molecular level, an autoclave which can sterilize lab equipment, a thermocycler which can replicate DNA, a water jet that allows you to cut through six inches of steel with water and garnet (sand).
Who can use the Center?
We are opening it up to startups and companies. The companies submit an application and are then vetted by LACI staff. It’s a space for professional companies, not a maker space for hobbyists. We expect that you have some knowledge of some of the equipment, but will train you on what’s new to you.
There are three membership levels: Beginner ($250 per month); Intermediate ($500 per month); and Advanced ($1000 per month).
What is the training process to use the various pieces of equipment?
As a first step, we will offer training classes for CAD and 3-D printing. Then as a secondary level, you can move up to the machine shop. As a third level, you can use the CNC (a computer numeric control mill that moves metals sideways and up and down), the lathe, and the water jet.
[Note: At the Advanced Prototyping Center, to gain access to the equipment, members will need to pass APC training courses, but the courses are intended to verify that members know how to use the equipment well. The APC is partnering with outside trainers for step-by-step curriculum intended to teach members to use the equipment properly and safely.]
Overall, what’s the value of APC?
I see the APC as a resource to startup companies, especially ones that are building prototypes. Startups can reduce the amount of money they spend on making a prototype of a product by testing and perfecting it here first.
To learn more about the Advanced Prototyping Center, go to www.prototype.la