Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
For a $125 monthly membership, people can sign up to use TechShop’s vast collection from manual machinery to computer numeric control machines.
By providing more than $1 million of high-tech manufacturing equipment to the public, the hackerspace-learning center TechShop seeks to promote collaborative innovation throughout the world.
Through classes, summer camps and monthly memberships, people from first-time makers to Tesla Motors employees use TechShop’s 3-D printers, laser and waterjet cutters, wood shop, welding equipment, design software and much more.
TechShop began in Menlo Park in 2006 but relocated its original facility to San Carlos last year. There are eight locations across the country, three in the Bay Area, and international plans for new sites, said Raffie Colet, senior general manager of San Carlos and San Jose TechShops.
“Our greater mission is to empower and enable people to build their dreams,” Colet said. “Very quickly, efficiently and cost effectively you can make whatever you want. Plus, you don’t have to buy a $2,000 machine to do it.”
TechShop helps break down some of the momentous financial barriers that can prevent people from experimenting or creating prototypes that may otherwise require large capital investments, Colet said.
“From the small business perspective, we have hundreds of thousands that become entrepreneurs on their own,” Colet said. “Machines, software, real estate — these are the barriers people face before TechShop.”
Not having to purchase or maintain a $50,000 piece of equipment benefits a range of individuals from starting entrepreneurs to large corporations and individuals to educational institutions, Colet said.
TechShop boasts numerous success stories such as when the makers of Square credit card readers had an idea that changed the way individuals accept business, Colet said. After going to venture capitalists to seek funds without a product in hand, they turned to TechShop, Colet said. Within a few months and just $500, the developers used the studio’s injection molder to create a handful of prototypes, which they were able to show investors and ultimately create an innovative product, Colet said.
“With such a low cost to entry to try ideas, more people can try their ideas. Ideas that can change the world,” Colet said.
Other achievements inspired through TechShop include its first corporate member, the Ford Motor Company. By providing their employees with access to TechShop equipment, their users increased patent rates by 40 percent, Colet said.
Now, local corporations such as Facebook, Apple, Google, Samsung and Tesla provide employees with memberships to use TechShop facilities. Instead of being cooped up alone or with a select few in an office, TechShop users grow through a collaborative and inspirational environment, Colet said.
TechShop requires users to take safety courses and companies like Tesla will send new employees to train before using company equipment, Colet said.
Individuals also utilize its facilities to learn basic techniques that can set help them up for employment. Annette Fleishman, a recent Stanford graduate with a degree in structural engineering, said resources like TechShop are rare. She has been learning to weld since she joined in March.
“I figured I’d take time off to learn all of these skills,” Fleishman said. “I was looking for an equipment type shop in Baltimore (her home town) and there really isn’t one.”
Fleishman said she studied engineering in college but didn’t have the opportunity to delve into acquiring skills she can ultimately translate to a career.
But you don’t need to have a background in manufacturing to benefit and create at TechShop. With a range of classes, experienced staff and professional innovators, one of the most influential aspects of TechShop is propagating a supportive community that encourages and inspires one another, Colet said.
“That little bit of inspiration, that little bit of collaboration could be all the difference in the world,” Colet said. “If we could get every person to try one of those ideas, we could change the world.”
With funding opportunities like Kickstarter, the possibilities of turning an idea into a life-changing product and business are endless, Colet said.
“The limit of what these machines can do is your imagination,” Colet said.
TechShop members create a range of things and it’s even common to have people working on cars, motorcycles and Burning Man contraptions, Colet said.
TechShop’s goal is to create spaces in nearly every city to enable locally crafted products that benefit communities and the environment by reducing how far products need to be distributed, Colet said.
“Making more things locally, buying something locally, not shipping … that money, that resource is going to go back to the community,” Colet said.
TechShop also draws on the creative wonder of childhood and offers summer camps and classes for children, Colet said. This summer alone, TechShop has worked with 600 children between San Carlos and San Jose, Colet said.
Its newer location in San Carlos currently has about 700 monthly members, but other larger TechShops like San Jose and San Francisco can have between 850 to 1,000, Colet said.
For a $125 monthly membership fee, people can sign up to use its vast collection from manual machinery to computer numeric control machines. You don’t have to be a member to take classes and prices vary.
“TechShop is doing what people want and need. This is something that people have wanted throughout time, people want to learn and be creative,” Colet said. “It’s awesome. What is more valuable than learning something? Learning something is something that can never be taken away.”
For more information about TechShop visit www.techshop.ws.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106