Was Henry Ford, who built up early motor vehicle prototypes in his shed, the original maker? That's debatable, but Ford has certainly evolved into a role model for both corporate leaders and citizen makers, tinkerers and DIY fans. It's fitting, then, that Tech Shop, a chain of membership-based workshops that provide laser cutters, spot welders, computer aided design workstations, 3D printers and many other pricey, hard-to-find and hard-to-access tools, has opened its latest shop in Allen Park, outside Detroit.
It's also no coincidence. Ford Motor Company and Ford Global Technologies, a subsidiary that manages the carmaker's intellectual property, helped Tech Shop establish the Allen Park workshop. And through Ford's Employee Patent Incentive Award program, Ford employees can receive a free three-month membership to TechShop Detroit if they submit an invention idea worthy of patent consideration. Plus, all Ford employees and retirees can receive a 50 percent discount on TechShop's $99 monthly membership fee.
It's a clever way for Ford to incentivize its employees to create prototypes of products or systems that could ultimately improve Ford products. Don Price, Ford’s liaison from core engineering to USCAR (United States Council for Automotive Research), for example, was awarded a Tech Shop membership for his design for an anti-theft system that would protect catalytic converters -- a part often stolen from medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks because they contain platinum.
For says that since the Tech Shop program was initiated at the beginning of the year, invention submissions are up more than 30 percent year-to-date, versus 2011.
Tech Shop has already served as an incubator for some inventions, including the mobile payment device Square, the first prototypes of which were built at the Menlo Park, Calif., TechShop.
General Electric has also partnered with TechShop to open its own facility for small-scale manufacturing, called GE Garages at Rice University.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com