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Hardware Hacking Build Hardware

NYTimes Visits Menlo Park's TechShop 36

ridgecritter points out this interesting article in the New York Times on TechShop, a membership resource (a.k.a. hackerspace) in Menlo Park, CA, for building stuff. "From hammers to 3-D printers and laser cutters. Fun!" Along similar lines, and also recently in the NYT, a quick on-the-train conversation with Bre Pettis of MakerBot.
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NYTimes Visits Menlo Park's TechShop

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  • I like the idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:05PM (#31811678)

    Anything like this in europe?

  • Barrier to entry (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Alwin Henseler ( 640539 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:35PM (#31811858)

    From the article:

    They will do this because the tools needed to make really cool things have become cheaper and because humans feel good when they make really cool things.

    If the bar on creating "really cool things" gets lowered, that also raises the bar on what's "really cool". Creating cool stuff takes time, effort and usually includes a learning curve. That said: you can start small, and take on bigger/harder projects as you go.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:57PM (#31811996) Homepage

    As someone who uses the Menlo Park TechShop [], a few comments.

    It's a very broad shop. It's not the only public shop in Silicon Valley. If you want to do electronics, Hacker Dojo [] has better workstations, where surface-mount work is possible. If you're building furniture, The Sawdust Shop [] has a better wood shop. But TechShop has both sewing machines and CNC milling machines, a stereolithography machine and a plasma cutter, which you usually don't find under one roof.

    There are Silicon Valley companies which buy memberships and send their employees over to use the machine tools. The four big manual Bridgeport mills, the big lathes, and the stereolithography machine are usually being used by pros. TechShop gives classes constantly, but most of the people who use TechShop already have considerable familiarity with tools. They just need access to the bigger machines. It's a good place to learn how to use CNC machine tools. CNC software is quite good today, and TechShop has reasonable midrange CNC design software (Vectrix Cut2D/Cut3D, SolidWorks, etc.) installed on their rather sluggish Windows Vista desktop machines.

    There's not much electronics and robotics work. Although TechShop gives Arduno programming classes, and people take them and build the projects, not much electronics gets built there. They have power supplies, meters, scopes, and soldering stations, but they're 1980s technology.

    The most popular activity is cutting decorative patterns with the laser cutter. It's easy to do, and two laser cutters are busy doing it almost continuously. Those machines just need line art in CorelDraw; you don't have to learn SolidWorks or Vectrix and do real CNC programming. No one activity dominates, though; there are people building birdhouses and people building rocket engines.

  • RTP, NC has one too (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vw_bob ( 117531 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @07:05PM (#31812060) Homepage

    I just thought I'd throw this out. The Raleigh/Durham (RTP) area in North Carolina has one of these too. I used it to build a swing set for my son last xmass. I've been playing around with their shopbot and using their wood working room too. Access to Solidworks is a nice feature too.

    Personally, the vast swath of tools and capabilities just wow me. They've got two machine shops (big and little). They've got a wood shop. They've got a plasma cutter. They've got a welding room. They've got a sand blaster. They've got a sewing room (with a surger that was so dangerous they had to hack it to slow it down). They've got a laser cutter. They've got an electronics room. They've got a 3d printer (and they're *building* two others). They've got lots of space to work too. Not to mention storage rooms and offices you can rent. Oh - and they've got classes on most of this stuff. All this for $30 a visit (or $100 a month for unlimited visits). It's a crazy deal.

    Overall it's a great place to see geeks and artists doing their thing. Everyplace should have a TechShop.

  • Hackerspaces (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_kanzure ( 1100087 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @08:18PM (#31812518) Homepage []. Be warned that TechShop is a commercial entity in this market, while many hackerspaces are non-profit. TechShop is a franchise with a gym membership model, so with it comes the same pains.
  • by morgret ( 1072856 ) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:50AM (#31816862) Homepage
    They key to neighbors is to move into a rental house where the previous tenants hosted loud parties that went until the wee hours of the morning and ended up with people passed out in the street. Then you come along with your machinery, and the neighbors are happy to have that noise instead! =] We do limit the hours we use the equipment, and have talked to our closest neighbor multiple times and verified that it doesn't bother them. We are not too far away from Techshop Menlo Park and also head there for some things that it's just not practical to do in the garage. We also find valuable the interaction with the other people at the Techshop, getting advice from them, seeing their projects, etc.

System checkpoint complete.