Making Room For Makers

By Lydia DePillis
Houston Chronicle

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “TX/RX” — which stands for “transmit/receive” is emerging as a center for Houston startups, small manufacturers and people who just want to make stuff.

Houston Chronicle

A few years ago, a researcher at the Texas Medical Center was ready to use a multi-million-dollar machine for imaging rat brains — except she needed it for mice, whose heads were too small for the machine’s holes. Spray foam and duct tape didn’t fix the problem.

Near desperation, the researcher found Ronald von Kurnatowski III, who runs a nonprofit fabrication workshop in Houston’s East End called TX/RX Labs. His staff used a 3D printer to forge inserts sized for mouse heads. Crisis averted.

“That’s not a complex problem to solve,” said von Kurnatowski, a tall, garrulous former application developer for JP Morgan who now comes to work in grease-stained pants and boots. “The problem is, they have a bunch of medical researchers, and they’re trying to task them with a set of problems that are meant for mechanical, electrical, and material engineers.”

TX/RX — which stands for “transmit/receive” — has quietly supplied solutions such as mouse-head inserts to medical researchers and other innovators for eight years, emerging as a center for startups, small manufacturers and people who just want to make stuff.

As the city forges a strategy to Houston’s tech scene with tax incentives and an “innovation district,” Kurnatowski wants to make sure that entrepreneurs and engineers who specialize in hardware are not forgotten in the hype around software and mobile apps.

That’s especially important now, when TX/RX, having outgrown its 55,000-square-foot space, is planning the next phase of its development. Underway is an expansion into a much larger building, where Kurnatowski hopes to ramp up both educational activities and the ability to house more small companies.

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