Did you know that the library has 3D printers? We have three in total, two that can print multiple colors at the same time and one that only does one color. We have had them for several years, but I just recently learned how to use them in the past month or
so. It always seemed like a daunting task to learn, especially after seeing the program that the printers use to convert the files. Once I got started though, I realize that it’s easy to learn, especially if you don’t want to get too in depth with it. The program that talks to the 3D printers only requires a little bit of knowledge to do baseline things, and it isn’t hard to learn the more in-depth aspects. The programs available to design the prints are pretty straightforward and offer helpful tutorials and there are also books to help you learn.
The way 3D printing works is that the designs are printed layer by layer using filament. There are many different types of filaments available, but the most commonly used one is called PLA or polylactic acid. The program that talks to the 3D printer breaks down the design into those layers and you can see what those layers will look like and how long the print will take. Currently, the printers are not available for patrons to come in and use for themselves, but you can submit files for staff to print. It works best if the files are .stl and the cost is five cents a gram. Below is a little bit more info on some websites that are available and a couple books that we recommend checking out.
To actually design a print, we recommend Tinkercad. It’s a pretty popular website and especially good for beginners. It’s best for designs that involve more geometric shapes. It uses a lot of circles, squares, and triangles. There are many things you can design using it though, and it offers tutorials to show you how to manipulate certain shapes to get what you are wanting. If you aren’t wanting to design something from scratch there is another website you can try. Thingiverse is a website where users can submit their own files of designs they have made. Some designs are based off popular games or media, others are just designs that people have come up with. The poster will submit the file to download and users who have printed it can leave comments to say how well it printed and any tips they may have. The poster can also leave details describing what settings they used and what kind of printer it was done on.
If you want to learn a little more about the 3D printing design process, 3D Printing Projects, is a book we highly recommend. It’s aimed more toward kids but it’s useful for breaking down the process and explaining what certain elements are or what they mean. It’s a good start for beginners who just want to learn the basics. 3D Printing for Dummies offers a more in depth explanation to 3D printing and the many different components and possibilities. It has a lot of technical information so it’s best for people who are very serious about 3D printing and want to learn every aspect that they can.
Have you ever tried 3D printing? Let us know in the comments!