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Facebook Opens ‘Area 404′ Hardware Lab

Wednesday, August 3, 2016 10:30
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Facebook has a brand new space for its best and brightest to get creative.

The social media company today unveiled Area 404, a 22,000-square-foot lab at its Menlo Park headquarters dedicated to hardware exploration and creation. The space, which is outfitted with state-of-the-art machine tools and test equipment, has been set aside for Facebook’s Oculus, Connectivity Lab, Building 8 and other infrastructure team members to come together in one space to work collaboratively and learn from one another as they create.

Facebook image

Facebook image

“We wanted to create more opportunities for these teams to come together; we needed a big, open space to complement our custom labs. So we built one, and we call it Area 404 — named for our teams wanting a space just like this one, but one wasn’t found; now it’s found, and we lovingly refer to the space as Area 404,” reads a Facebook blog post.

“With this new space, we can now handle the majority of our modeling, prototyping, and failure analysis in-house, decreasing each iteration of the development cycle from weeks to days. Even more important, the space has room for all teams, with more than 50 workbenches in the main area.”

The lab is broken into two main parts: electrical engineering labs which are used to test and debug designs and prototyping workshops, which are filled with machine tools to help teams to quickly work out on complex problems.

The machines onsite, according to Facebook, include:

  • 9-axis mill-turn lathe, used for making complex components that require tight tolerance turning features and milling features on a single part, such as a custom-designed, two-axis gimbal for air-to-air and air-to-ground laser communications. With this machine, Facebook can make these parts in one setup and in low volume production; without this machine, parts would have to be machined in multiple setups on multiple machines,

    Facebook image

    which is slow and error-prone.

  • 5-axis vertical milling machine, capable of producing extremely large, complex, and accurate prototypes by machining with all five axes simultaneously. This machine allows Facebook to create large and extremely complex geometry — like parts associated with Terragraph — rapidly.
  • 5-axis water jet, capable of cutting full 10′ x 5′ sheets of material, including aluminum, steel, granite, stone, etc. The jet is powerful enough to cut through a sheet of one of these materials that is several inches thick.
  • Sheet metal shear and folder, two machines used for sheet metal prototyping. The folder is a CNC machine that can be programmed to bend complex sheet metal components, such as the components making up our custom-built server racks.
  • CNC fabric cutter, used to cut any fabric quickly and accurately based on a 2D engineering design.
  • Coordinate measuring machine (CMM), used to inspect prototypes to ensure they are within specifications that are calculated by the engineer. The machine is also capable of reverse-engineering a part and turning it into a 3D computer model.
  • Electron microscope and CT scanner, used for examining components for failure analysis and can produce 3D, X-ray images for inspection. During prototyping, it’s important that we can pinpoint where to make improvements.

The equipment, of course, is a huge investment but, to Facebook, it is money well spent. CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s dream of connecting the world depends on cutting-edge hardware.

“We’re working hard to make the world more open and connected, and as shared in our 10-year roadmap, that includes building next-generation hardware — hardware that creates smarter, more immersive experiences and systems that will connect the world,” reads the Facebook blog. “With our expanded lab space, we are advancing the pace of hardware research and development already happening within Facebook by bringing our experts together.”

It will be interesting to see what kind of hardware comes out of Area 404 in the future.


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.

The post Facebook Opens ‘Area 404′ Hardware Lab appeared first on SiteProNews.


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