Hardwarelab: Build, test, repeat

Published: 14 December 2023

Text: Anne-Marie Korseberg Stokke

Photo: Angelique Culvin-Riccot

If you walk through the glass corridor on the ground floor of Oslo Science Park, you will encounter something resembling a zoo for tech enthusiasts. It's Startuplab's workshop, Hardwarelab. Here, prototypes are developed, tested, modified, discarded—or end up as successful products.

"This is our tinkering den,'" says Kristian Hesthaug, head of Startuplab Hardware, as he clears away some pieces of a circuit board from the workbench.

In not very many square meters, there is space for soldering stations, testing equipment, laser cutters, metal milling machines, soldering ovens, resin printers, and a variety of 3D printers. Wurth Electronics provides free electronic components, there is free access to PLA plastic for printing, and you can benefit from components left behind by previous companies.

All tenants of Oslo Science Park have access to Hardwarelab for a monthly fee.

"The machines and tools are important, of course, but this is also a meeting place for people who like to build things. Here, someone from Sharelab, planning to 3D-print lab equipment, can meet people building battery banks or creating machines for reuse in the construction industry. New ideas can emerge, or you can find someone who can help you solve a problem," says Kristian.

The opportunity for chance encounters and collaboration across disciplines is something both Startuplab and Oslo Science Park emphasize.

"All companies in Oslo Science Park can buy access or rent a space on a monthly basis for a very reasonable fee, with only one month's notice required," Kristian informs.

Rent a space?

Would you like to rent a space in Hardwarelab or do you want to know more about equipment or opportunities? Please contact Kristian Hesthaug at Startuplab.

Some companies rent a permanent workspace so they don't have to clean up every time, while others lease space for a specific project or period.

Among the products that have originated here are the first prototype of ReMarkable, the AV1 robot from No Isolation, the Heimdall sphere monitoring the power grid, or the plant cultivator Auk. All are displayed on the shelves inside Hardwarelab, inspiring new entrepreneurs.

Trial and Error

As we walk through the space, we pass a conveyor belt and some 3D printers diligently printing two black boxes.

"The company Li-Tech has developed a sensor that can detect fire-prone lithium batteries in our waste. They have set up a small conveyor belt for waste sorting here in the lab, where they can test different placements of the sensors."

Almost anything goes in Hardwarelab, as long as there is space and adherence to safety rules. So, one might think it becomes chaotic when fresh entrepreneurs are let loose with lasers and soldering irons?

"Most people working here are technically skilled from the outset and know what they're doing. But, of course, it's okay to ask for help, both from us at Startuplab and from others using the workshop," assures Kristian.

Many prototypes have been created on the worktops of Hardwarelab.

Cheering for Norwegian Production

Running a workshop comes naturally to Kristian Hesthaug. After all, he grew up in a house with workshops for metal, wood, painting, and music in the basement and could weld from the age of eight. After many years in the software industry, including roles as a product manager for "dial-up internet" at Telenor and development manager at Canal Digital, he is now an advisor for entrepreneurs developing and producing physical products, often in combination with unique software.

"I'm happy to guide companies in the design process or connect them with many of our supporters, so that the product they create is efficiently producible. For example, if you're assembling a box, should it be glued or screwed? Perhaps the screw holes should have a conical shape so that both humans and a robot can more easily hit the target?"

"If you design the product right and avoid a significant need for manual labor in production, it's not necessarily more expensive to produce it here at home."

Kristian Hesthag, Startuplab Hardware

He believes many have a misconception that you have to go to Asia to produce hardware.

"If you design the product right and avoid a significant need for manual labor in production, it's not necessarily more expensive to produce it here at home. A robot costs the same in Norway as it does in Asia. Moreover, in Norway, we excel in high-quality electronics. Many produce for the defense industry or the oil and gas sector and have very high demands for safety and documentation. We're not exactly making toys here," Kristian concludes with a smile.