Some projects go beyond Vise-Grips and duct tape. Sometimes the only thing that will get the job done is a fully equipped metalworking shop with a 32 square foot CNC machine. But those things cost a fortune, and who has room for one, anyway? TechShop does.
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Techshop is a group of workshops with tons of equipment, capable instructors, and a community of like-minded builders. On a given day in the shop, you'll find people restoring motorcycles, fabricating prototypes, making furniture, sandblasting salvaged metal—just about anything, really. Techshop was founded in 2006 by Jim Newton, an accomplished Battlebots gladiator and the former full-time Science Advisor on MythBusters. After debuting in Raleigh, NC, the company has expanded to San Francisco, Menlo Park, San Jose, and Detroit, with plans to open locations in Brooklyn, D.C., and Pittsburgh.
Gizmodo recently toured Techshop San Francisco, a space in an old printing warehouse formerly owned by the SF Chronicle. The gallery above shows a few of the incredible things we saw. While the specific machines vary by location, each Techshop is set up with a machine shop, woodworking shop, automotive bay, crafting area (for jewelry production and fabric work), and general work area. Tools range from run-of-the-mill lathes, drill presses, and sewing machines, to state-of-the-art plastic injection molds, CNC machines, waterjet cutters, laser cutters, and everything in between.
Now, Techshop doesn't just let anybody play around with the heavy machinery. The workshop is a member-driven enterprise—dues run about $100 a month. And each member, before being let loose on a particular device, will have to prove his or her competence by first passing a basic safety course. The workshop also offers Pathway classes to help develop the skills necessary to use a machine's (and your own ) full potential. Project classes teach techniques based on a specific in-class project.
It's an amazing resource. Where else could you learn ironworking, powder coating, electronics soldering, designing in CAD, and the basics of bookbinding—all under one roof?
Location: San Francisco, Menlo Park, San Jose, Raleigh, Detroit—and soon DC, Pittsburgh, and Brooklyn.
Money Invested: North of $1 million.
Prized Possession: The Flow Waterjet cutter, one of just a handful of such devices available on the West Coast for public use. As Techshop rep Carrie Motamedi told Gizmodo, "The Flow waterjet has the biggest WOW factor for members. They were really excited about getting those—they can cut through 6 inches of almost anything. So we have people doing everything from cutting sterling silver for jewelry to full kitchen countertops."
Theft Deterrent: Dragging a 4-foot x 8-foot CNC machine through downtown San Francisco is sure to attract attention. But, moreover, the sense of community and teamwork keeps people's sticky fingers off the equipment.
Geekiest Gear: In the woodshop hangs a wall clock—built from an expended SawStop table saw blade and brake.
On the Wish List: "3D printing is becoming more popular," Motamedi says, "so we have our eye on making sure we have offerings to support members needs there. We already have 3D printing services and printers on site. And our partnership with Autodesk, who has expertise in 3D design, is a huge plus for members. But this is one area that is growing fast."
Visitors are greeted by a hand built roadster constructed by some two dozen team members.
This is the machine shop, where members can use the milling machines, lathes, drills, rollers, CNC cutters, and other metal working tools. The sand blasting cabinet, powder coat station and oven are located in the rear.
Another shot of the machine shop.
The machine shop also features a waterjet CNC machine.
Upstairs from the machine shop is the general area space, where members can work on projects, access the full Autodesk Suite, and collaborate with one another.
The Ninja Standing Desk is a portable work space that can be hung from virtually any vertical surface. Invented by Dan McDonley and developed at TechShop SF over the course of 10 months, the NSD has already exceeded its Kickstarter goal.
One of the many classes held at Techshop, this one was and SBU for the laser cutters.
The Techshop's machine offerings also cover a wide range of craft working.
The results of one such craft work class.