Saturday, February 16, 2013

Pittsburgh Techshop

Thoughts on my visit to the Pittsburgh Techshop...

1. Wow this is a lot of people. I don't know how many people they were expecting, but I bet this was more than they bargained on. I'm not good at judging crowds but I would put the group at over 500. On the way there in the car I mentioned to Mrs. TANBI that maybe we shouldn't have gone right at the beginning because we'd be the only ones there. We weren't.

1a. (I am not renumbering again) This certainly is a prominent location. The Pittsburgh Techshop is on the first floor of Bakery Square. It is prime retail space. Kind of unexpected for a place like this.

2. Damn that's expensive. It seems like membership is about $100/month normally. There were "tonight only" bundles that were almost half that (sidebar about how much I hate "tonight only" type pricing). I don't know what figure I had in my head, but this is a lot more. I guess having been around shops literally all my life I have taken them a little bit for granted.

3. Our laser is bigger. When the guide of our tour told us about the laser that they were going to have it occurred to me that the one in our shop was bigger. What I was hoping for from the thing was that their inventory would be a lot better than ours. It certainly was newer, but better turned out to not be a given.

4. Well that certainly is a big whiteboard. There's a multipurpose room, tour dude called it a conference room, when I was in it it screamed "party room." But anyway there's this multipurpose room that has dividing airwalls that are full wall dry marker boards. Pretty neat.

5. I do not like Tourdude. He seemed very taken aback with himself and the venture.

6. They aren't ready. In the back of my mind I knew this was going to happen. I had been part of an email chain with Pittsburgh folks trying to find a temporary space for Techshop classes because they weren't going to make their date. In the front of my mind I had forgotten. Many tools weren't there yet, there were bunches of things still shrink wrapped or palletized, and there were contractor tools jammed into a couple of rooms. In the end, I could have read about a bunch of things I wouldn't see online without coming out.

7. I still don't know what happens if you break something. Tourdude really didn't have this answer or didn't want to give it to me. I was curious to know what happened to a user if they cocked up one of the tools, like if you machine into the work surface of a mill or bury the head of the CNC router. Pretty much he said that's why you have to provide your own bits and that you would get scolded. But then he implied if you crashed the cutter head of the water-jet it would cost $900. They have a SawStop. I know that's $80 every time it is tripped. I am still wondering if as a user I would have to pay.

7a. People use this as their business shop. Tourdude explained that sometimes people running a business would come in and book up the laser. I get how that would happen, but it seems antithetical to the "maker" idea. Maybe if you do it to get your business going. But once you have a product I would think one would want to tool up or find a vendor. But maybe I am wrong.

8. They have a SawStop saw. They think that is really cool. Tourdude didn't say what would happen if you got your hand in the joiner. Ouch. They will have a 48x96 router table. We have a 48x96 router table.

9. Their Water-Jet is bigger than ours. Or, they have a water-jet. Very nice. They also have an Ironworker although it isn't set up.

10. They have a reasonably sized powder-coating oven - along with sandblasting and a spray booth. All very nice.

11. They have a commercially built vacu-form rig, although it is less than 30x30.

12. Those mills are really clean. I didn't see a metal lathe, I can't imagine they won't have one.

In the end, I was both impressed and not impressed. I'm not sure how that happens. It was bigger and smaller than I thought it would be and more and less than I thought. The price point is still difficult for me to grok. I am not sure what I would pay to have quasi-unlimited access to some premium tooling I don't normally have. I mean, I can already see the powder coated 1/4" steel plate dinosaur I would make. But for $1200/year I would get many more hours out of cable, right? No waterjet that way though.

Excited and disappointed. That's how it goes sometimes I guess.


elj said...

Have you been to the one in San Francisco? Seemed pretty big, the third floor seemed to have like 30 laser cutters. But, it was $100/month and then you had to pay an additional $100/class for any tool you wanted to use. Seemed a little excessive just to use a laser cutter once to make like, a plexiglass thing or interesting business cards.

David said...

I guess if I didn't have access to 90% of the gear on my own time and I had a persistent need then it might be worth the price.

Hard to justify though with so much equipment already in my life.

Still might try to teach CAD over the summer and pick up a free membership.

Kathryn said...

I had a conversation with Dan Woods at the reception that indicated he was trying to set something up with CMU as a whole. So maybe, you'll get access without an individual membership.

David said...

THat'd be cool. Did you apply for work?

Kathryn said...

Yes, had an interview for the front desk yesterday, but haven't heard back yet. Instructor interview on Saturday. Big portfolio update this past weekend - realized exactly how bad I am at keeping documentation.