TechShop Inc., ASU Chandler Innovation Center gives city high-tech momentum - East Valley Tribune: Business

TechShop Inc., ASU Chandler Innovation Center gives city high-tech momentum

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Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014 7:31 pm | Updated: 9:23 am, Sat Jan 18, 2014.

Chandler’s stranglehold as the Valley’s tech city is getting tighter.

The reputation is long derived from the Price Corridor, full of big-name national companies. But the little guy now has his place to think big, too.

TechShop Inc. — a membership-based, do-it-yourself fabrication studio filled with more than $1 million in tools, technology and equipment that gives entrepreneurs, hobbyists, and tinkerers a place to create anything their mind thinks up — and the ASU Chandler Innovation Center on Friday celebrated their grand opening in appropriate style.

Mayor Jay Tibshraeny and ASU President Michael Crow teamed with the university’s dean for the College of Technology and Innovation and the TechShop founder, Jim Newton, to slice a special steel ribbon with a plasma cutter as part of the celebration.

“The maker movement has come to town and it will ingest a new energy into downtown Chandler,” Tibshraeny said. “The next big thing will come from the ASU Chandler Innovation Center ... and this strengthens Chandler’s reputation as the technology and innovation hub of the southwest United States.”

The 35,000-square-foot Innovation Center, inside an old Public Works building at 249 E. Chicago St., which has classrooms that opened to ASU students this month, is home to the 15,000-square-foot TechShop.

TechShop is filled with more than $1 million in state-of-the-art machines, tools and computers with all the latest engineering software. Fifteen employees and more than 20 part-time instructors work out of TechShop.

The textiles room comes with commercial-grade sewing machines, surger, screen printer, embroidery machine and a 12-foot-long arm computer-controlled quilter.

TechShop has an electronics bench, woodworking shop, metal shop, laser cutters, 3D printers, auto bay, welding tables, metal press, grinding room and a digital water jet.

“The difference many times between having an idea and physically manifesting that idea is the opportunity and access to tools,” Crow told a crowd of nearly 200. “How do you physically manifest the idea in your head? You do it at a place like this.”

Classes are available for around $50 to $100 each to teach anyone how to use any of the high-tech equipment.

Memberships are between $76 and $125 a month for ASU students, faculty and the public. ASU students who take classes at the Chandler Innovation Center will get to use the TechShop for free.

This is the seventh studio for San Francisco-based TechShop and the first in Arizona. It is the company’s first university partnership, something Newton looked for since the beginning but was always met with resistance from the higher education community, he said.

Mitzi Montoya, vice provost of ASU Polytechnic campus and College of Technology and Innovation dean, was the driving force behind the partnership.

“Many university students have access to many of these machines. What’s different is that this facility is open to the public as well as students,” Montoya said. “Normally labs like this aren’t open to the public. The intermingling effect of students and the public, I expect, will be tremendous.

“Higher education should engage more in the maker movement.”

TechShops in San Francisco, San Jose, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Austin, Texas, and the flagship studio in Menlo Park, Calif., already turned out notable inventions. The Square credit card reader for mobile devices was prototyped at a TechShop. The Dodocase iPad case, which President Obama uses, was devised at a TechShop. The Embrace incubation blanket, which will help save babies’ lives in developing countries, was made at TechShop, Newton said.

“I started this selfishly as a way for me to build my own projects,” said Newton, who founded TechShop in 2006 and will open an eighth studio in Washington D.C. in March. “But there are many, many other people out there who want to go do, create, invent. It really is a movement and it’s great to see a university like ASU embrace that movement.”

The Chandler shop opened in mid-November. This week’s grand opening ceremonies continued Saturday with tours, equipment demos and hands-on activities for the public.

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