Made in Dayton: Drink, socialize, build at Proto

Proto BuildBar is a maker’s space with a twist. And a bar. And classes.

Admit it: The last time you sat down with a cold one, you had an urge to solder something. Or perhaps you felt a need to whip up a three-dimensional plastic rendering of a favorite model airplane.

But unfortunately, the bar you patronized at the time didn’t have a soldering kit or any 3-D printers around.

Now you're in luck. Proto BuildBar in Dayton is a 3-D printing shop. And a bar. And a coffee shop. It's all three all at the same time — and somehow, it works.

All are welcome, said Alex Todd, the bar’s general manager. You don’t need to be an engineer or a Computer Assisted Design (CAD) expert to get something out of Proto BuildBar. In fact, Todd particularly digs it when novices walk in the door at 534 East First St., a stone’s throw from Fifth Third Field.

“We actually prefer when somebody with no knowledge (comes in) because then we can start fresh and start building on the core values and kind of the beginnings of getting them there,” he said.

Opened late last year by Chris Wire, president of Dayton design and marketing firm Real Art, the idea is to take a "maker's space" — a place where creative and hands-on people can get creative and hands on — and give it a decided twist.

“Kind of the whole concept is a maker’s space for beginners,” Todd said.

The stylized industrial space is instantly comfortable. There are tables and a bar, of course. But computer monitors with access to a library of CAD designs are available, as are shelves laden with 3-D-printed creations.

“Tell us what you’re into, and we’ll find a way to 3-D print it,” the general manager said.

Classes and education are at the heart of what this place is. What sewing is to SewDayton, 3-D printing is to Proto BuildBar. Classes and private events show customers not only the ways of filament-additive printing, but also basic electronics and micro-controllers.

“Beyond that, you can come in and hang out in a cool environment,” Todd said. “Have a coffee, do your work or have a beer.”

Credit: Amelia Robinson

Credit: Amelia Robinson

A 3-D printer, of course, can “print” or slowly layer, slice by slice, a physical, three-dimensional object derived from a computer design file. The technology has found a welcome home in Dayton-area contract manufacturing shops and defense-focused contractors, and some have hailed the process as one facet of manufacturing’s future.

Pricing is based on how much time it takes to print your creation. Rates start at $20 for a 90-minute printing job. $40 covers up to three hours of print time. And $60 covers five hours, and that includes free shipping.

If you get tired of 3-D printing, you can always play what the bar says is the world’s largest claw machine (Guinness World Records-certified, Todd said). Or you can grade students’ papers, like Karissa Jobman, a Dayton Public Schools teacher and a Proto BuildBar regular.

“The first time I found this place, I was actually just walking by,” Jobman said. At first she thought it was a gym. But when she walked in, she was delighted.

“I just really like the vibe of it, the feel of it,” she said. “It’s very relaxed. It feels welcoming to do work here.”

For hours, inspiration and more, check out Proto BuildBar's Facebook page.

Want to go?

WHAT: Proto Build Bar

WHERE: 534 E 1st St, Dayton

HOURS: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday

About the Author