If it manages to keep its doors open long enough, any respectable bar should accrue a few great "how we met" stories. Proto BuildBar in downtown Dayton, Ohio, has only been open since last October, but its already been the site of a pretty legendary marriage proposal. While getting down on one knee and asking for a woman's hand in marriage isn't exactly an uncommon sight at a drinking establishment, this ask had a twist; the husband-to-be had actually printed the ring a few moments before asking at the bar's bank of MakerBot 3D Printers. That's not to suggest he's spur-of-the-moment or any less romantic, but more to illustrate how this isn't your typical spot to sip microbrews.
The Proto BuildBar was founded by Chris Wire, owner of the neighboring Real Art experiential design firm, based on ideas he had been tossing around since he started experimenting with the old Thing-O-Matic 3D Printer. While the proliferation of makerspaces around the country had helped expand the growing maker movement, Wire felt a more casual setting would go even further in introducing people to DIY electronics and 3D printing. His company had already started operating out of an 8,000-square-foot building, formerly a ballet studio, and had plenty of extra space, so he turned 3,500 square feet into a bar and coffee shop with focus on technology. Guests can work at a bank of a dozen 3D printers or an electronics space with laptops, called the Maker Bench, where anybody can work on their own projects, program with Arduino and Raspberry Pi open-source computer hardware systems, or even buy and build pre-arranged ProtoKits. Costs run from $20-$60 to print, based on the size of the final product, and $25 for a hour for the electronics lab.
"The less you know walking through the door, the more stoked the crew is to help," he says. "We want to get people over that initial fear of, 'Can I do this?' and hopefully get them going down the maker/builder path."
Located across the street from the city's minor league baseball park and in the center of a
renewed downtown, Proto is a pretty inviting setting for testing out new technology. Wire says the bar is also a tribute of sorts to engineers and inventors, like Nikola Tesla, whose likeness graces a mural on a back wall, as well as local tech heroes such as the Wright Brothers and John Patterson (founder of NCR).
So far, business has been good enough for Wire to consider expanding and opening two new locations. Crowds have been varied; the bar has held camps for kids during the summer and attracted corporate team building groups, but has also seen deals for a bottle of wine and soldering session perform well.
"It's a really social, relaxed atmosphere, where you can get a sandwich, bourbon, beer, or coffee and hang out," he says. "Who would have thought alcohol and soldering irons was a good idea?"
· Behind the Scenes of MakerBot's New Brooklyn Factory [Curbed New York]
·These High-Tech Masonry Blocks Could Revolutionize the Way We Build [Curbed]
· A Dutch Designer is 3D-Printing an Entire Steel Bridge [Curbed]