Imagine & Create: 3D Printing at Spokane Valley Library

Posted on November 15, 2023 at 6:00 am

By Abra Cole

3D Printing at Spokane Valley Library

A frequently asked question we’ve gotten since the new Spokane Valley Library has opened is: “When will 3D printing return?”

Well, I am here to share the good news: 3D printing is back and we’re accepting printing requests!

We’re offering STEM programs on how to make specific types of 3D printed objects as well. These programs also share the skills needed to design your own 3D creations.

Upcoming 3D Printing Workshops

Holiday Ornaments

Create holiday décor as unique as you! In this workshop, make personalized ornaments by turning vector graphics into printable objects. Explore how to design and print 3D creations using computer-aided design (CAD) software, just in time for the holidays. Adults & teens

Registration is required.

Thursday, Dec 7, 3:30–5:30pm | REGISTER

Micro-Seed Starter Pots

Let’s prepare for gardening season! During this workshop, we print and construct micro-seeding pots perfect for early spring. Watch your ideas bloom when you learn to design and print 3D creations using computer-aided design (CAD) software. Adults & teens

Registration is required.

Wednesday, Jan 10, 3:30–5:30pm | REGISTER

Create Your 3D Design

If you want to try your hand at designing your own 3D creation, you can get started using Tinkercad, the same software we use in our 3D printing workshops.

Tinkercad is an entry level CAD (Computer Aided Design) program where users can manipulate shapes to create objects of all varieties. Tinkercad also offers some tutorials on various skills on their website. Bonus: It’s free to download and use!

If you’d prefer an in-person lesson, I recommend making a Book-a-Librarian appointment. Someone from the library’s 3D printer team helps you, going over whichever parts of the process you are interested in learning. Each Book-a-Librarian appointment is for about 30 to 60 minutes.

If you’re already familiar with another CAD program, you are welcome to create your files for submission using that. Our 3D printers use the file type STL (short for stereolithography, a popular 3D-printing format).

For 3D printing requests, each library customer is permitted to submit up to three files per month for no more than 10 hours of printing. There are also size limitations that our machines can print, which you can find on our 3D Printing web page and design submission form.

You might be wondering, “But what can the 3D printer really make?”

The answer is nearly anything, so long as the request isn’t bigger than our printers’ limitations and follows our guidelines and library policies.

Often when people think of 3D printed items, they share with me that they envision small novelty items such as figurines or funny trinkets—fidget spinners and flexi-creatures are among the most requested items. And while these are fun and popular for 3D printing, it is possible to make so much more. Here are some ideas from Thingiverse:

The library’s 3D printers aren’t suitable for projects that would be exposed to heat, such as something used to hold hot food or drink or a replacement part for a motor. The filament our 3D printers use is a type of biodegradable plastic called Polylactic Acid (PLA), which has a low melting point.

Other 3D Printing

While there are some things not suited for the type of filament we print with at the library, you can find and learn about other possible printing options out in the world.

If you’re a baker, or just into eating fancy-shaped chocolate, you can get your very own 3D printer for chocolate, available from Cocoa Press. This machine prints with actual chocolate. You can print elaborate shapes and designs, such as those seen on the top of cakes and other desserts at local fancy bakeries and restaurants. Personalize your own cake toppers or write your name in chocolate!

3D printing in healthcare is being used for regenerative medicine. Scientists are using 3D-printer technology to print biological materials such as skin and cartilage made with cells taken from the recipient. For about a decade, scientists have been working towards the possibility for a patient to receive a 3D-printed kidney or liver transplant, ovaries, and even a 3d-printed heart. To learn more about this area of science, check out our science and technology digital resources for the latest journal articles and scientific advancements.

Here we are, already living in the future. I hope you feel inspired to design your own fantastic 3D creations with the resources available at the library.

When you come by for a visit to the Spokane Valley Library, stop by the 3D printer to watch it work and see what it is creating. It may just be printing your design!

Abra Cole

Abra Cole works as a Public Services Specialist for Spokane County Library District. She enjoys engaging with library customers, including hearing about their favorite books, hearing about how their gardens are growing, and helping them solve technology troubles with personal mobile devices and the library’s 3D printer. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, expanding her fiber-arts skills, and hanging out in the woods with her family.

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