MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
McConnell’s Innovation lab is a creative space where Airmen can 3-D print, create prototypes, and even create new inventions that have been used on the base and others. Utilizing the ingenuity of Airmen, the Innovation Lab affords Airmen an area to troubleshoot work center problems and foster ideas for new inventions.
The Innovation Lab is responsible for rapid prototyping and creating solutions to help the 22nd Air Refueling Wing. Some of these solutions can be applied to the broader Air Force. The lab is in hangar nine, also known as the “Stearman Hangar,” located on McConnell’s Guard side. Their purpose is to help enable a quick response for anyone on base in need of their productions.
“An Airman was able to find a solution of a boom creating friction with an aircraft as a result of it being too close, a bracket was made at the Innovation Lab, and he was able to solve the issue by creating separation,” said Tech Sgt. Ryan Winn, NCOIC of the Innovation Lab. “We have also taken a large part in creating things that have helped Explosive Ordinance Disposal such as creating materials for detonation that not harmful to the environment.”
The Innovation lab has a lot of different tools to make this happen, including a wide range of capabilities from woodworking with table saws and planers, also six different kinds of Computer Numerical Control machines.
Recent projects have included a deployable solar-powered radio box, a tool to clear jams in an asphalt recycler, increasing safety during runway repair and the creation of an autonomous robot that uses ultraviolet C-lights to clean grocery stores with Wichita State students. The lab also 3-D printed face shield frames for local healthcare workers during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airmen also commonly use the lab’s available tools to make items such as plaques or posters for their offices.
“You don’t have to know the solution,” said Master Sgt. Andrew Parise, superintendent of the Innovation Lab. “All we need is your idea, come to us with a problem and we can either help you figure it out, or we can reach out through lots of different avenues and come up with a solution.”
For more information, contact the Innovation Lab at 759-3520