Inside Facebook’s new “Area 404” hardware lab

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This is where Facebook will antecedent a solar drones, Internet-beaming lasers, VR headsets, and next-gen servers.

The problem with relocating faster than many companies is that Facebook was tormented by delays whenever it had to outsource prototyping and contrast of a gadgets and gizmos. With so most hardware on a 10-year roadmap, and entertain after entertain of increase stacking up, it done clarity to build a dedicated laboratory within a Menlo Park headquarters.

Check out what we saw on a tour: “40 photos from Facebook’s ‘Area 404’ insane scholarship laboratory”


Facebook’s 10-year roadmap includes drones, satellites, lasers, telecom infrastructure, VR headsets, and protracted existence hardware that will all be prototyped during Area 404


So yesterday, Facebook gave a organisation of reporters a initial demeanour inside Area 404.

Packed with giant, expensive, dangerous machines like a computer-controlled 9-axis drill, Area 404 houses one of a few bedrooms during Facebook Mark Zuckerberg isn’t authorised in. It’s too vulnerable notwithstanding all a precautions, certifications, and training Facebook offers a hardware engineers.


Luckily Facebook rigorously adheres to a 5S reserve complement — sort, set in order, shine, order and sustain. Every singular apparatus is laid in a labeled block of tape.  Spencer Burns, one of a lab’s CNC Model Maker, explains that Facebook can’t pierce quick if it can’t find a tools.


Jay Parikh, Facebook’s Head of Engineering and Infrastructure, tells me a 22,000 block feet space is named Area 404 after a “Not Found” blunder code. Facebook engineers kept wanting to antecedent new hardware devices, though a resources required were unfortunately “not found” during Facebook.


After adequate requests, Facebook burrowed out a garland of offices in Building 17 of a headquarters, drilled hulk support columns down to a bedrock to support a complicated machinery, and incited a space into a radiant white, unconventional penetrate center.

It’s a large ascent from where Facebook’s tinkering in a earthy universe started. “Our initial hardware lab was a large as a table in a aged mail room” laughs Parikh. His favorite square of a new lab? An nucleus microscope with 10,000X magnification for inspecting teeny, little failures in hardware. Construction began 9 months ago underneath a organisation of Facebook’s Mechanical And Power Manager Mikal Greaves, and now a initial teams are relocating in.


Jay Parikh explains because Facebook needs a hardware lab

Parikh explains that there are dual categorical objectives for Area 404:

  1. To emanate a partnership space large adequate to get hardware engineers from opposite a association together in chairman to work on common problems
  2. To build a state-of-the-art hardware laboratory with a apparatus required to antecedent and destroy exam a early designs of Facebook’s stirring gadgets

Both will cut down a time it takes Facebook to get from device source to operative antecedent it can afterwards mass produce. The Connectivity group that tests apps underneath diseased connections, a Oculus VR squad, Facebook’s puzzling new Building 8 colonize tech division, and a Infrastructure teams that build servers and information core can now rebound ideas off any other in a common home. The lab has 50 work benches to accommodate them all.


Inside a lab we saw all from 3D pattern program displaying stations to computer-controlled lathes and mills for forging steel into prototypes to an MRI appurtenance for looking inside a device for errors. Half of a lab is dedicated to electrical engineering experimentation, while half is for prototyping workshops for shaping, cutting, and tortuous steel as good as utilizing wood, stone, or potion if necessary.


What will be built here? Data infrastructure like Facebook’s open shelve network switch Wedge, a Open Vault storage solution, and a sensors for a Telecom Infra Project’s OpenCellular platform. Connectivity Lab inventions like a Terragraph wifi nodes and Project ARIES antenna, as good as collection for a Aquila solar-powered worker that only had a initial successful exam flight. Plus Oculus will antecedent destiny chronicle of a Rift headset and a Surround 360 camera.

Area 404 doesn’t do everything. There’s no welding collection here, and it won’t be estimate a possess circuit boards. When inclination are prepared for scaled production, a prototypes built during Area 404 will be sent elsewhere to be copied. At that point, there shouldn’t be any additional back-and-forth iterations necessary. All a kinks will have been worked out during HQ.

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Hardware isn’t a new try for Facebook. It has an Oculus heart in Seattle and an aeroplane hangar in a UK for a Aquila drone. But with Area 404, it can move a creations in a earthy universe adult to a same gait of origination and iteration that’s driven Facebook’s success in a program world.

Take a Area 404 debate yourself by checking a pictorial: “40 photos from Facebook’s insane scholarship laboratory”