TechShop Mines Detroit’s Innate DIY Culture With New Location

[Corrected on 12/30/11, 1:25 p.m. See below.] Roughly 18 months after Menlo Park, CA-based TechShop announced it was partnering with Ford on a new location in metro Detroit, the communal, membership-based DIY maker space is ready to welcome the public next week at an open house on Dec. 27. [Paragraph has been updated to reflect the correct amount of time that has passed since TechShop announced it would open a Detroit location. We regret the error.]

“Detroit needs a place like this,” TechShop’s CEO Mark Hatch says. “That’s abundantly clear by the number of hacker spaces popping up, almost more than any other city. Detroit has an innate desire to do it yourself, not to mention thousands of engineers. It’s the right place at the right time.”

I arrived for my tour of the approximately $1.8 million Allen Park facility—about a 15 minute drive from downtown Detroit along I-94 West—and was greeted by a man wearing a t-shirt that said, “Trust Me—I’m An Engineer.” It was an appropriately lighthearted garment for a place that aims to give everyone from pre-teen hobbyists to garage-workshop inventors to seasoned engineers a pleasant, affordable space in which to bring their homegrown inventions to life.

And what a space it is. The long, slanted front desk was fabricated in the shop and is meant to inspire members by showing them how simply all the parts fit together. Walls are painted scarlet, teal, royal blue, and hot pink; natural light floods shop spaces that are a serious departure from typically dark and dank industrial facilities.

The atmosphere is bright and welcoming, and contains a tinkerer’s smorgasbord of machines, tools, and software: 3D printers, laser cutters, industrial-grade sewing and textile equipment, mills, lathes, saws, shopbots, an injection molder, a flow jet, a computer lab, a room for large projects that is big enough for a hovercraft, and even a “dirty room” for sandblasting. It even has an auditorium.

Anchoring the facility is a wireless-equipped open space with 4 x 8 work tables, each with access to power outlets, compressed air, and a vise. The various labs, organized by discipline, branch out from around this central hub. A common tool bin sits in the back of the room, and members can bring parts from home or purchase them in the small retail store that will eventually be located in the lobby area.

“We want people to have as few roadblocks as possible to getting into their creative … Next Page »

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