A rare tour of Google's 'The Garage' lab where employees can build anything

Google labs015Business InsiderChris DiBona and Aaron Cunningham, program manager, Google’s The Garage

There’s a good reason that Google is constantly named one of the best places to work: the level of perks for employees is mind-blowing.

For instance, here’s a peek at a fantastic perk called “The Garage.” It’s a free TechShop-like workshop where employees can build anything they can imagine. They can even take classes to learn how to use the equipment.

Googlers can use this workshop to make things for their jobs, their home, their volunteer efforts, or just for fun.

Check it out:

This is Aaron Cunningham, program manager for the garage. He sort of runs the place.

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Cunningham is joined by Chris DiBona, who is fairly famous in certain circles. He's director of open source for Google, a big job. (He is also a consultant for HBO's hit comedy 'Silicon Valley' and a funny guy.)

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DiBona is the manager that oversees The Garage. He jokes that this means his job is just writing checks to buy new toys and equipment for it. He saw a new machine the day we were there and his face lit up. 'When did we get this?' he asked. He clearly likes the shopping part of his job.

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Any Google employee can come in and use the lab. They also hold lots of special events here.

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Google has other machine shops that are restricted to authorised users. But this is the place where everyone from beginners to experts can explore.

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Look at the far wall. That's a row of 3D printers of various sizes and capabilities.

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Here's a close-up of one of the 3D printers.

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There's loads of scrap stuff, from wire to paper to cardboard to ...

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Here's a wall of foam blocks that can be used for anything from toys to crafts. The blocks make a nice lounging spot for Business Insider's editor Julie Bort.

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The Garage started in a cubicle in 2008 when some Googlers needed a spot to work on their '20%' projects, the personal projects Google allowed staffers to devote a portion of their time to. The spot grew and in 2012, it got this official space. When it got a 3D printer, Cunningham got involved. He started teaching classes on how to use the printer and he volunteered to organise and run The Garage.

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Even the room itself is part of the equipment. Everything is on rollers, with the electricity coming from the ceiling. Everything can be moved around if more space is needed to build something big. Some Googlers have built Burning Man projects here.

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The room has hand tools, a C&C mill and soldering equipment. It keeps play dough on hand for modelling, as well as whiteboards and other prototyping materials.

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It has large scale printers, a full-colour blueprint printer, shop vacs, all sorts of goodies and gadgets found in the best-equipped garage machine-shops.

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A lot of the equipment is donated by Google employees, too. For instance one day, some sewing machines just showed up in the lab.

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Employees simply donated the sewing machines for all to use. They can be used for things like building toys or sewing upholstery.

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The Garage is also used for 'Design sprints.' That's a short period of time, like five days, where employees work together to solve a business problem by building a new product, including the prototype.

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Here's the Google sign on the door of The Garage.

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The sign was made in The Garage from assorted old car parts.

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One little known thing: The Garage has quiet Fridays, the one day a week when it doesn't allow events. The room is dedicated to personal projects and quiet work that day. Some Googlers like the space so much they will just come in and hang out to get away from their desks.

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