I've been eager to join TechShop since they launched many years ago in the Bay Area. This fall we Austin makers finally got our chance! It's a great space and is connected to a Lowes hardware store, so materials are close at hand:
You can see TechShop equipment details here: TechShop Facilities In order to use many of these tools, one first must take a 'Safety & Basic Use' (SBU) class. As the name suggests, the class is focused on teaching the basics of using the tool in a safe manner.
Many of the early members are blasting their way through the SBU classes as fast as possible - as evidenced by the full Austin class calendar. I've taken my share, but was most excited for the Waterjet SBU. A waterjet uses high pressure water mixed with an abrasive media (60k psi with garnet in our case) to precisely cut (via erosion) very thick material. Getting access to a precise and powerful piece of equipment like this (supposedly costing > $200k) was one of the main reasons I joined TechShop.
The Waterjet SBU is 4 hours long, taught by local expert Lee Lanford, owner of Heart of Texas Metalworks. Lee was a lot of fun and great teacher. We spent 2/3 of the class learning the Waterjet CAD/CAM software - Flowcut and FlowPath - primarily through drawing our own designs. The last 1/3 of the class was at the Waterjet, where we walked through the operation and each student cut their own playing card (below).
After the class was over, I wanted to take another pass at using the Waterjet to reinforce what we learned. I used Flowpath to whip up a quick design using the 1st comic book emblem that came to mind:
And here is a preview of the cutting path, in the FlowCut software. The green lines show the traverse path between cuts, the red dots indicate a lead in cut (entry point). You can control all of this as well as the cutting speed as part of your design files.
I then found some 1/8" steel in the scrap bin, setup the Waterjet and let it run. The cut took about 5.5 minutes. Here is a 4x speedup video.
And the result, a nice ornament for our Xmas tree (probably not).
The class was a lot of fun. I now feel very comfortable with an awesome piece of equipment. Next step - building something useful!