A Story of a 3D Printer and a Library

Boise Public Library was not part of the “Make It” program through ICfL. However, BPL has an amazing Friends of the Library group that gave the library some funds to buy a 3D printer and supplies. We chose a Makerbot Replicator 2.0 and are using PLA filament. Here’s a little of how our story went:

1. Printer and filament is ordered. Staff members had a hard time deciding which colors of filament to purchase. Decided on black, white, clear, clear red, bright yellow, and dark sparkly blue.

2. Printer and filament arrives. Everyone involved is super excited. Prints day 1: a shark that didn’t work, a chain that didn’t work, (we took turns calibrating the printer) a business card holder (success from then on!), a small dog charm to show the Friends for their meeting the next day since a lot of the Board members are dog fans, an octopus (one of the most popular downloads on Thingiverse), a second octopus (this one in high quality for comparison to the standard quality).

Challenges: Which side of the print bed is right side up? How do we get this print off the printer bed? (Since then, we have faithfully used blue painters tape). Why we can’t build something without a raft?

3. Changed filament from the clear it came with to the dark sparkly blue. Prints day 2: bookmark (successfully printed without a raft!) and a bracelet that says “Got Book?” (this particular print took 5 tries; one standard quality without a raft–no go; standard quality with a raft–no go; standard quality with the heat reduced and a raft–no go; high quality without a raft–no go; high quality with a raft–success!

4. The next two weeks, the 3D printer got very little use because the staff involved were too busy with other work stuff–although a large chess piece got printed so we could see how the 3D printer printed a tall, slim piece and IT tried out a couple of things with the bright yellow filament.

5. We decided to use the 3D printer during a Teen Tech Week program. We prepped on Friday and printed a bright yellow book keychain. Saturday was the day of the program. Since Makerware was not yet installed on our Mobile Lab laptops, we set the laptops up for the teens with a tab for Thingiverse and a tab for 123D Design.

Prints from the Teen Tech Week program: a tiny elephant in black, a tiny turtle in white, a dark blue creeper from Minecraft, a dark blue musical note, a tiny bunny in white, and a tiny dragon in black. All of these items were chosen, by six different teens, from the Thingiverse. Changing the filament each time took a few extra minutes between each print. Luckily, all the items printed successfully. Unfortunately, only 6 of the 21 teens on the list for printing got to print something.

Challenges: In a two-hour program, only six teens got to print because each print took 10-20 minutes. We scaled all of the things down to about an inch to speed up the process, but we also used a raft for each item since we have had very little success with building without rafts.

Future plans: teens were encouraged to create a free account with 123D Design (browser-based or app-based) to work on items for 3D printing from home, school, or at the library. We gathered a list of email addresses for those who are interested in future 3D programs. The library staff learned a great deal of things to do again and to do differently for future 3D programs. This is just the beginning. . .