In the first quarter of 2021, new equipment will be added to the X-Fab prototyping facility at the Ecole Polytechnique. Thanks, in particular, to the alumni of the Ecole Polytechnique through their support to the Ecole Polytechnique Foundation, each year the X-Fab is expanded to remain at the cutting edge of technology. These continuous developments allow us to support increasingly ambitious projects. Let's take a closer look at the place and its new features which will benefit students, entrepreneurs, researchers and partners of the X entrepreneurship centre and beyond.
A unique place with multiple audiences
Located on the X campus, in the heart of the Paris-Saclay cluster, the X-Fab and its 1,000 m² of space, consisting of 6 centres and 60 machines, have been constantly linking education, research and entrepreneurship for nearly 6 years. Each year, an average of 400 people receive "machine" training to work on their projects independently or with support. They can also call on the X-Fab team at any time for advice on the design and use of the right machines for their projects.
A true crossroads of innovation, the prototyping space of the Drahi - X Novation Center of the Ecole Polytechnique is at the crossroads of the latter's support programmes. It is a resource for the X-Up incubation programme, for the companies in the X-Tech incubator, an innovation ground for the centre's corporate partners, and a place to support projects led by X students. It is also open to researchers from the Institut Polytechnique de Paris who can access it for classic prototyping, experimental projects or even benefit from an awareness of the possible bridge between research and entrepreneurship.
From the idea to the pre-production stage, via 3D modelling, the experts who run the centre enable project leaders to challenge their product visions. They bring their expertise and accompany the creators so that they can have a very concrete view of what their innovations could look like. They also allow them to iterate their prototype. More dedicated to hardware projects, it is also, to a lesser extent, a space made up of numerous software tools that can accompany certain digital projects. And, in the event that they don't have the necessary technologies, the team members rely on X's extensive network to support the projects that come to them.
The X community, a key player in supporting innovation
Created in 1987, the main mission of the École Polytechnique Foundation (FX) is to support X's development actions. To this end, it launched a second fundraising campaign of 80 million euros in November 2016, which it is in the process of closing. The funds collected from École Polytechnique Alumni and companies, allow in particular to finance research programmes, scholarships for international students or new equipment for X entrepreneurs. Each year, the École Polytechnique Foundation, and therefore the alumni, support the development of the X-Fab.
At the beginning of this spring, the prototyping area is equipped with a state-of-the-art tool: a 5-axis machining centre. A substantial investment of nearly 200K€ made possible by the former employees. It will enable the production, with a minimum of manual operations, of mechanical parts with a high degree of complexity in terms of shape, on a wide variety of materials (up to hard metals) and with a high degree of precision (1/50 mm). This new machine will benefit students, entrepreneurs and researchers alike.
The Fondation de l'X also finances prizes designed to promote entrepreneurial initiatives. For example, the X-Grant Silicon Valley prize is awarded each year to X students or young graduates with an innovative project with a Silicon Valley component. This $100,000 prize is financed 50% by the École Polytechnique Foundation and 50% by the Friends of Ecole Polytechnique, a sister organisation of FX based in the United States, thanks to the generosity of alumni donors based in California.
Multiple poles, multiple opportunities
In the first half of 2021, five new machines will be added to the subtractive division, three to the finishing division, two to the transformation division and one additional machine on the robotics side. Six clusters make up the structure of the 1,000 m² site and three others are transversal and not really materialized in the space.
· The electronics division : this consists of all the machines enabling the use of soldering, prototyping boards, analysis and the use of surface mounted components.
· The additive manufacturing centre is made up of everything that allows the production of 3D prints. It concentrates 15 printers and allows the manufacture of prototypes that can be produced more or less quickly depending on the precision of the machines and the size of the parts to be produced.
· The cluster that includes all the machines (lasers, CNC // cutting machine, engraving machine, milling machine) constitutes the subtractive cluster. This is the area that will receive the most new installations during 2021.
· The modelling department allows the creation of prototyping boards, soldering, CAD or CAM.
· The pole dedicated to augmented reality / virtual reality is an additional opportunity to analyze the relevance of the final project.
· The robotics center allows you to program, build and train your technology.
In six years, the prototyping space has supported the company InBolt, the Wyve project, the companies EpiLab and Orok. It has supported projects from the student space center, the start-up binet, the robotics binet and our partner Valeo. Concerning research, it has recently helped the realization of laser calibration test patterns in the Apollon project (with the Laboratoire Leprince-Ringuet (LLR)).