3D printing: if you can design it, we can print it

Posted on December 14, 2016 at 9:30 am

If you can design it, we can print it By Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library District

By Gwendolyn Haley


3D printing pops up in my newsfeed with increased regularity. Maybe you’ve seen some of the coverage too? Museums are using 3D printing to create replicas of priceless ancient artifacts for study and to allow people with visual impairments to experience masterpieces firsthand. Individuals and other organizations are also putting 3D printing to good use. You might have seen news coverage of someone like this ten-year-old boy making a prosthetic hand or this puppy using a 3D printed wheelchair.

Over the years, 3D printing has become more mainstream, and now you can access one at your local library! The District recently installed our first 3D printer, an Ultimaker 2, for public use at the Spokane Valley Library on the first floor.

If you haven’t seen it in action, the 3D printing process is mesmerizing. The printer builds an object from a digital file by adding layer after layer of plastic filament. It’s a little bit like a hot glue gun, but instead of glue it extrudes PLA (polylactic acid) filament—a hard bioplastic derived from renewable starch based resources. From action figures with moveable parts to custom cellphone charging stands and prosthesis prototypes, few limitations exist when it comes to 3D printing.

3D printing now available at Spokane Valley Library   3D printing now available at Spokane Valley Library

If you can design it, now we can print it. Want to give 3D printing a try? Here’s what you need to know:

  • While the 3D printer is able to print a vast majority of designs, there are some limits. The printer cannot print designs that are too large, or will take too much time to print. Print times do vary greatly depending on the print settings and design.
  • If you have never used a 3D printer, you might want to take a look at LinkedIn Learning to find free video tutorials. This electronic resource is available to all members with a current library card.
  • You can use a free website like Tinkercad to try your hand at designing something to print. Another option is to browse a site like Thingiverse to find a design to print. On Thingiverse, “all designs are encouraged to be licensed under a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone can use or alter any design.”
  • To submit a 3D print design to our printer, please fill out the 3D Design Submission form on the 3D Printing webpage.

3D printing now available at Spokane Valley Library
I hope folks take the opportunity to explore their 3D printing ideas. I have been noodling around with an idea for custom cookie cutters as a Christmas gift for family members, but shhh, don’t tell them.

Gwendolyn Haley

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