Tech Shop Menlo Park, is one of the first maker shops to give large scale access to lots of different machinery to its members. At 15,200 sq feet it houses a all sorts of possibilities, below is the floor plan.
I traveled there in at the end of January, 2009. Upon walking in I was greeted at the front desk and shown a quick tour around the facility.
On the other side of the front desk there are different things you can buy, like stickers for the printer, resistors and diodes, nozzles for the sand blaster, and other various things that come in handy for people who like to make things. They call it the Maker Shed/Retail Store.
On to the good stuff: I met up with Don who was teaching a class on powder coating and observed what was going on. The way things are organized at tech shop follows that people take a Safety and Basic Usage (SBU) class before they can operate most of the machinery. This is what I was observing and this SBU was about sandblasting metal and powder coating.
All of the imperfections on the pieces of metal are blasted off to leave a smooth finish that the paint can adhere to evenly.
Above you see a bar that the pieces of metal are hanging from, this bar is part of a circuit that enables the powder, which is loaded in the yellow gun to electrically stick to the metal. The whole system uses something like 7000 volts to get the job done. Once the metal pieces were coated with powder they cooked in an oven for about 10 minutes. The final outcome, I didn’t take a picture of, but if you have ever seen any John Deer tractors, that is what powder coating finish looks like. Powder coating is widely used, even the power supply for the powder gun was power coated but as Don noted, it was done poorly and suffered from an affect called orange peeling, where the finish has a texture similar to that of an orange peel instead of a smooth finish.
The Main Workshop Area above was taken over by the boy scouts when I was there. They were having their regional car races. On the left there is member storage space, and in the way back there is a lounge area with coffee and yes, Tech Shop has their very own popcorn machine, I should have taken a picture.
There are a few other rooms that I didn’t take pictures of but you can get the idea of what all is in the Tech Shop from the floor plan at the top of the post.
The good news is Tech Shop is expanding around the country. There are already facilities going up on Portland, OR, and Raleigh, NC, with plans as of now for ones in Austin, TX, San Francisco, CA, Sunnyvale, CA, Marin, CA, Sacramento, CA, Los Angeles, CA, San Diego, CA, Seattle, WA, and Orlando, FL.
For more information on Tech Shop their website is http://techshop.ws/
Also Check out these two videos: