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I recently had the exciting opportunity to take my first trip to Japan for ShopBot. Although I was traveling with ShopBot’s CCO Brian Owen, who has traveled there before, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. One of the first things I noticed is how clean everything was, and how nice and respectful the people were. This made it a lot easier traveling in a foreign country. Most of our local traveling was by train and bus, and it took a few days to understand the system. Getting a chance to ride their bullet train was a pretty cool experience. I also really enjoyed all the amazing food. It’s a sushi lover’s paradise! One of my most enjoyable dinners was at a sushi carousel.
One of our visits was to Tokyo Machine Center in Saitama. Brian, Shoki from VUILD, and myself met Hisashi Miho there to do a final check on a PRSalpha CNC tool that was assembled by Miki and Asako from VUILD. The first thing we noticed is how good the tool looked. Assembling a 4x8 gantry tool can be tricky, but Asako and Miki did a great job. Our goal was to do a final check and give our approval on the machine so that Vuild could sell it to a customer. After just a couple minor tweaks, we gave our thumbs up and said it was good to go.
Hisashi Miho, who runs the shop, was an interesting character. He was very helpful in getting us some tools we needed to do some work, but he also was very curious as to how the ShopBot works and was even giving some suggestions on improvements we could make. Hisashi also has a side gig as a Snake Master, although I don’t think he has much time for that these days.
Another exciting event that took place was the first official Camp ShopBot Japan. This took place at the VUILD headquarters in Kawasaki. There were about 16 customers, and after a few presentations and demos, everyone gathered in small groups and discussed ideas about making different things. When Brian was talking to a customer about how to cut a surfboard on the ShopBot, explaining how he would approach it, another person who had experience with a similar project overheard him and opened his laptop to demonstrate how to set up a cut like that in VCarve Pro. This collaboration between people and sharing of ideas is one of the things that makes these camps exciting and successful.
We performed a demo at the camp using our new oscillating knife to attempt cuts on different materials. There was a lot of interest in this! One of the customers brought some material for us to try and cut with the knife. It was a challenge to get the material to cut well, but it provided an opportunity to review problem-solving while people watched. This was a nice demonstration of how a ShopBot user should test a few ideas before getting the result they are aiming for.
We got the sense that everyone really enjoyed the event and meeting fellow woodworkers from the area. Some people came as far as two hours away to join the event. VUILD is already planning on doing another Camp ShopBot, possibly as soon as March of 2023.
We also visited Kokuyo in Minato City, Tokyo. They manufacture office supplies and furniture, like Campus Notebooks. They also do some custom work for companies by making special furniture or 3D décor. They have recently partnered with VUILD, and they have a ShopBot 4x8 PRSalpha tool in their office that they use to cut out parts for the décor and furniture. The custom work they do is mainly with wood and is very innovative and practical. VUILD's understanding of architecture and use of the ShopBot makes this a successful partnership.
Overall, the trip to Japan was amazing. I love the culture and traveling to the various cities and meeting different people was a great experience. Another thing that I was impressed with is how much people in Japan are passionate about building things with wood. Even when incorporating CNC machines into the process, they stay true to traditional woodworking techniques. ShopBot CNC is opening a whole new world for many businesses in Japan, both in increasing production and increasing creativity. I’m excited to visit there again someday and see what new things everyone is creating.
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