Technology Office Innovation Laboratory

The Laboratory fosters creativity by offering staff a well-equipped makerspace for experimenting with the construction of new inventions.
TOIL's machine shop has various tools for fabricating parts for new systems.
TOIL's machine shop has various tools for fabricating parts for new systems.

The Technology Office Innovation Laboratory (TOIL) is a makerspace in which Lincoln Laboratory staff can design and build experimental hardware. TOIL allows researchers to perform early concept validation and engage in unstructured, curiosity-driven tinkering.

The 3D printed hand above was manufactured in TOIL.
The 3D printed hand above was manufactured in TOIL.

The facility has design tools like Solidworks and Autocad, and makes available several manufacturing tools, including 3D printers, laser cutters, and traditional machining systems. Engineers can characterize the behavior of their hardware with spectrum and network analyzers, oscilloscopes, waveform generators, and other electronics. By putting all these capabilities together, staff can use this do-it-yourself open laboratory for rapidly prototyping innovative devices or creating custom components for new systems.

Some Technology Office–funded projects that have sparked interest include the development of free-form optics, a half-scale model of a prototype satellite, a model of a deployable boom structure for a microsatellite, lightweight bridge structures, improved prosthetic hands and a prosthetic limb, and microfluidic devices.

Both a working Stirling engine and a Turing machine were built in TOIL by engineering teams. These machines are two of the science exhibits on display in the Laboratory. For another exhibit, a Foucault pendulum, staff in TOIL worked with high school students to design the pegs that are toppled as the pendulum swings in its daily rotation over a circular platform.

David Scott, manager of TOIL, gives a high school student instructions for using design software to program a 3D printer to build a component.
David Scott, manager of TOIL, gives a high school student instructions for using design software to program a 3D printer to build a component.

Students in Lincoln Laboratory's two-week summer workshop on building a small, operational radar system are introduced to 3D printing of parts in TOIL. University students in the summer internship program have utilized TOIL's capabilities, either in conjunction with work they have been assigned or in the construction of a novel invention for the annual Intern Innovative Idea Challenge.