March 29, 2011 Leave a comment
I’ve seen several articles now that hint at a possible trend in the fabrication world. Possibly, in the near future, those of us who build things will not need to own the specialized tools necessary to produce our creations.
I grew up in my grandfather’s woodworking shop. Later, I worked with my dad in his woodworking shop. Now that I have a place of my own, guess where I work? If you answered, “In a cubicle,” you are right, but when come home, it is straight to the garage. Once the cars are backed out of their parking spaces, my garage turns into my shop where I do my woodworking, automotive work, and some light metal work. I own all sorts of saws, wrenches, jigs; all of the tools I need to produce the things I want to build. It is a tradition that goes back in my family as far back as we can all remember.
This formula isn’t surprising. For thousands of years, people have used tools, and I’m guessing many owned such tools and used them at home. The problem with this scenario, however, is that not everyone can have a home shop. Either the tools are too expensive to own or there is no place to use/keep them. What happens when someone with a creative streak can’t have a shop? Would you tell Michaelangelo that he can’t be an artist because he doesn’t have a place to store his paintbrushes?
Enter the tech shop: a centralized collection of tools that can be used by the masses and returned when no longer needed. Some have compared tech shops to gyms where a member can use a piece of equipment for a few minutes and then move onto another, allowing someone else to begin using the first. Others compare tech shops to libraries, but instead of checking out a book for informational gain, a member checks out a tool for productive gain. However it is described, tech shops allow creators to produce objects without needing to purchase, maintain, and store the tools used to create them.
Tech shops are much more than just glorified rental stores as well. Many also include tools that few ordinary shop owners would own, let alone rental stores. Tech shops often provide access to tools such as 3D printers, CNC mills, and other high-end fabrication tools. I doubt the guys at my local rental shop even know what a 3D printer is.
Another key difference between a tech shop and an ordinary tool rental is the knowledge base. Some tech shops like San Francisco’s TechShop hold classes to train members on how to use some of the more advanced tools.
Possibly the greatest key difference between a tech shop and a rental store, however, is the work space. Instead of having to bring home each tool one by one and paying for a day’s rental per item, all of the tools are covered by a single membership fee, which also allows you to work on your project on the tech shop’s grounds. Work areas are provided, having been designed with efficiency of fabrication in mind. This means that even the guy in the 500 square foot studio apartment can build the same thing as a person with a dedicated shop in the back yard.
So you say you need to work on your brakes in the middle of the winter and you don’t have a garage? Check out http://firstgeargarage.com/ You no longer need to own that impact wrench. You no longer need to own any tool for that matter to get the job done, let along a place to use it.