9 September 2012
One of the little-known perks at Google is the set of fabrication workshops. There are four of them: electronics (soldering irons, microscope, oscilloscopes, etc), woodworking (table saw, band saw, sanders, etc), metalworking (lathe, 3-axis milling machine, guillotine, etc), and welding (plasma cutter, grinders, fume hood, etc).
Although they are available for all employees to use, access is only granted after one has proven to the shop's manager that you will leave with the same number of fingers as you arrived with. In my case the video of my lava lamp centrifuge was taken as evidence of my competence (though to be honest I'd have disqualified myself on the basis of that video). It has been great to periodically take a break from work, wander over to the shop and build something.
A recent electronics project converted my travel shaver to be powered by USB. The shaver was designed for use in 120v regions only, but with a pair of diodes and a heat sink, I am now able to charge it from my laptop.
A recent woodworking project was the construction of a pair of mounts for my elbow lamps. The original plastic mounts had a design flaw which prevented 360° rotation when mounted on the side of my home workbench. My replacements are carved internally to accept the original mounting hardware.
A recent metalworking project involved fabrication of a pair of trunnions to simplify and lighten a robotic wrist joint I'd built a few years ago. The metal came from the case of an old computer.
I'm still mostly a software guy, but every once in a while it's good to build something in the real world.