Have you ever seen a 3D Printer in action? I hadn’t either until our helpful Boulder City Library staffers were willing to give me – and all of YOU!!! – a demo for how this bad-boy works! I gotta say, it’s fascinating – I kept wanting to just stand there and watch it buzz and beep and work its magic while I looked like an 8 year-old gawking at her ice-cream cone being made…And when we were all done, we had a replica of a Las Vegas Knights hockey puck!
The printer isn’t available YET for the general public to use, but they are planning to make it so later this year. As of now, the staff have been training on how to use it, and also studying how other community libraries have made it available in their areas, and how to price out the costs of it’s use, etc. (If you’ve never even heard of this technology, read about it here.) The technology has taken the world by storm, and has far-reaching implications for businesses, the health care industry, and even the food industry, among others.
How did our library come by this nifty machine? They received it from Workforce Connections, the company that made possible the partnership between the library and the One Stop Career Center (located within the library). The career coaches were interested in teaching STEAM concepts (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) to prospective job hunters, and felt having a 3D printer in the library would help.
According to Kim Diehm, Library Director, “We have had lots of interest in trying out the new machine and learning how to create prints. The small things we have printed proved to be quite popular with people, and we cannot wait to get our library users started creating their own designs!”
For those who want to get technical, we’ve got a summary (below) for you on how exactly this magical device works. For the rest of us, we’ll keep an eye out on when these services become fully available, and in the meantime, we hope you’ve enjoyed this little sneak peek at it all!
From the Library staff:
For this machine, we have 10 different colors of PLA Filament. We have used it so far to print prizes that have been given out as a part of our Summer Reading Program and library decorations. Our favorite things we have printed are a mini Hogwarts Castle from Harry Potter and a dinosaur skull. We find most of the 3D models from thingiverse.com. Images to print can be created through CAD programs. Right now, our policy committee is working on creating a policy (and procedures) that would enable library users to print to our machine. Once a policy is in place, we will be hosting events where we teach people how the machine works and how to create a design.
The machine works by extruding thin layers of PLA Filament on top of each other, building up a design. Because it works in layers, switching colors when making things can be tricky. In order to monitor our prints, there is a small camera in the machine itself. It casts to any computer or smart device that is logged into our MakerBot account. From our MakerBot app or the website we can send a print, monitor prints, change the density of item or add support structures. Support structures are important when printing upward as they keep it from becoming lopsided. They then just snap off once the item has printed so you cannot tell that the support structure was there.
As items print, the melted PLA cools immediately so as to not burn people. The only part of the machine that gets hot is the Extruder, where the melted PLA comes out. This makes it a safe machine to have running for long periods of time (although our staff pauses prints when the library is not open to prevent any issues). When printing, you may notice a sweet smell in the air. That is because PLA Filament has sugar in it. Often it smells of pancakes around the machine when printing.