Patrons of the Natchitoches Parish Library are now able to access the NPL’s 3D printer. But what is a 3D printer, how does it work and what can it create?
This type of technology does what it’s name implies- it can create object in three dimensions that are made out of plastic filament. The filament is in what looks like a role of film that clips into the side of the printer. The end of the wire of filament goes through a mechanism inside the printer, where the plastic is heated up and then comes out of a nozzle that resembles the end of a ballpoint pen.
The printer is given information from the computer it’s connected to. Those interested in printing can fill out a form found on the library’s website that assists in creating designs or they can submit their own design. A free to use website, tinkercad.com, is good place to create designs for 3D printers for beginners. Other useful websites are thingiverse.com and sketchup.com.
To access patron 3D printing services, visit natlib.org, select “How Do I?” on the top menu, then click “Use the library’s 3D printer?” There, patrons can choose filament colors, choose raft and support options (overhang on designs), detail options (speed of printing), layer height and fill settings (whether the object is hollow or solid).
Patrons may also submit a 3D print design file to the NPL and will be contacted to verify the cost, color and other printing options. Patrons are charged $0.07/gram for material used and a $2 setup fee per print job. Payments are made before receiving a completed print. Full instructions can be found on the NPL’s 3D Printing page.
This emerging technology is a rapidly expanding field and is changing the landscape for creators, designers and crafters of all ages and skill levels. Though 3D printers have fallen in cost dramatically over the last five years or so, they still remain out of reach for most households. The printer can create almost anything, from small figurines to replacement parts to any sort of item that would otherwise be expensive to replace.
In keeping with the NPL’s motto of “Knowledge, Connection and Community,” the library is now offering public access to its 3D printing service since it is not available to all that are interested. The library hopes that, as knowledge in a book can expand one’s horizons, providing this technology will help to unlock new possibilities for residents and improve information and technology literacy in the community.
Teachers at local schools may contact Alan Niette, Community Outreach Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 318-238-9236 to request a demonstration for their classroom and to organize a week-long course in partnership with the NPL for their students.