You may think of Facebook as focused on social networks and software, but in recent years the company has taken a much more hands-on, physical approach. As its portfolio diversifies it has taken bigger and bigger steps into the world of hardware. Now Facebook is taken another big step by opening up a large R&D lab in Menlo Park, specifically destined for hardware development and experimentation.
With projects like Oculus Rift, Surround 360, drones, Open Cellular, internet-delivering planes and so on, Facebook has slowly morphed from a social network company to a general tech company like Microsoft or Google. And now the new, open, 22,000-square-foot lab will help the company’s engineers come together and continue to experiment and develop the hardware that the Facebook’s varied projects require.
The lab, affectionately called Area 404, is cutting edge. It’s filled with everything needed for industrial design, from 3D printers to machines for sheet metal prototyping, to a 9-axis mill-turn lathe to an electron microscope and CT scanner to detect tiny imperfections.
Of course, large scale production will still be handled by OEMs, and individual products like the Oculus will likely still have their own separate labs as well, but Facebook sees Area 404 as a place for collaboration between engineers that will hopefully speed up product development.
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