ON ANY given day at the interim campus of the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), engineers and architects can be seen working alongside each other to turn ideas into reality.

In a 1,000 sq m laboratory, a variety of aids are available for students and researchers to create physical prototypes of their designs.

The tools for creation range from woodwork and metalwork workstations to 3-D printers that enable real-life prototypes to be mechanically produced from designs that are input into a computer.

The $3 million fabrication laboratory was officially opened yesterday at the interim campus in Dover Road. It is modelled after a laboratory at SUTD's American partner university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Already, some researchers have put the facilities to good use. Architectural design assistant professors Stylianos Dristsas and Yeo Kang Shua are using its 3-D printing machines to help in ongoing restoration work at the 160-year-old Yueh Hai Ching temple, Singapore's oldest Taoist temple, in Phillip Street. By scanning the intricate but crumbling dragon motifs on its roof, the duo produced a life-size 3-D ceramic replica of the original design that can be used to guide restorers.

The university, which took in its first batch of students this year, has 340 students and will eventually have 4,000 undergraduates and 2,000 postgraduate students in 2014, when it moves to its permanent campus in Changi.

Yesterday, Professor Kristin Wood, co-director of SUTD-MIT International Design Centre, said the integrated lab design is unique to universities here.

SUTD president Thomas Magnanti added: "Another important feature is bringing to this digital generation a tactile feel of technology - to know what it is like to make and feel a product."

All students will use the lab to create their own products as part of a compulsory design module in their first year. With the chance to use gear that ranges from humble hacksaws to waterjet cutting machines, first-year student Sherman Tan, 21, said: "It is more than what I expected to be exposed to."