AssentWorks Inc. has received $467,000 from the federal government to buy high-end manufacturing equipment that will be accessible to anyone in the city.
The innovative non-profit workshop, set up more than a year ago entirely with the sweat equity of the founders and members and private-sector support from the likes of Princess Auto and High Speed Crow, now has technology on hand that rivals that of tier 1 manufacturers.
Among other things, AssentWorks has already acquired a high-tech 3D printer and a sophisticated 3D scanner. More equipment is scheduled to arrive in the next three weeks.
"Last year, we had basic capabilities where you could come in and test things out," said Michael Legary, the chairman and co-founder of AssentWorks, who is also the CEO of Securis.
"Now actual companies can come in and finish a prototype. It doesn't matter if you're a startup out of the basement or Boeing, we will have equipment that will make sense in your prototyping process."
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the MP for Provencher, presented the cheque to AssentWorks on Friday on behalf of the Department of Western Economic Diversification.
"This investment will remove barriers for new entrepreneurs who would not otherwise be able to purchase the specialized equipment necessary to undertake the research and development needed to produce new prototypes," Toews said.
AssentWorks is already the largest "makerspace" (fabrication facility) in Canada.
With about 100 members that include entrepreneurs, inventors, tinkerers, artists and innovators, it has recently merged with Ramp-Up Manitoba, a similarly minded group of entrepreneurs dedicated to digital-technology startups.
Members pay $100 per month for 24-hour access to the equipment and workspace on the third floor of an Adelaide Street heritage building -- less if they commit to a certain number of volunteer hours.
Legary said the key to the federal government's contribution is AssentWorks is committed to making the significant cash grant available to everyone.
"They put up the funds to buy the equipment and we will make sure it will be made available," Legary said.
"If they had funded another project, $500,000 might have been hard to get to for the average person in Manitoba. But if you want to show up tomorrow and scan something, the equipment is right there."