Live in 3-D: Brookfield Public Library to start 3-D printing club

Library shows off 3-D printer in classes

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Nicholas Samuel for Shaw Media)
The Brookfield Public Library's MakerBot Replicator 2, the library’s 3-D printer, makes solid 3-D objects out of melted plastic filament.
Caption
(Nicholas Samuel for Shaw Media)
Objects made on the Brookfield Public Library's 3-D printer include a comb, bracelets and links of chain.

BROOKFIELD – Patrons at Brookfield Public Library are calling 3-D printing programs a huge step in industrial evolution.

Within minutes, users can make their own 3-D objects using free websites such as Tinkercad, 3DTin, SketchUp, AutoDesk 123D, OpenSCAD and Blender, all of which focus on 3-D design.

After designing the creation, they can send it to the printer.

“This allows us to make prototypes without using tools,” said Don Bancroft, a library patron. “There are geometries you can make with this program that wouldn’t be possible using saws.”

The MakerBot Replicator 2, the library’s 3-D printer, makes solid 3-D objects out of melted plastic filament, according library staff.

Frank Murray, head of reference and electronic resources at the library, explained that the filament is made up of polylactic acid, also known as PLA filament, and is safe to use. He added the filament is biodegradable and corn based.

The printer heats up the filament and squeezes it through a nozzle to make a solid object layer by layer, which can take up to several hours to complete.

The brass knot at the end of the nozzle can reach up to 414 degrees Fahrenheit. But when the printer is finished designing the object, the object stays at room temperature and is safe to touch.

“It meets the standard electrical needs,” Murray said. “Only 6.25 amps are being used. That’s less than how much most hair dryers use.”

Murray said the library has printed off replicas of the Stanley Cup and the Willis Tower, as well as chains, nuts and bolts, combs, buttons, paper clips, bracelets and a deck of cards. The library’s MakerBot Replicator 2 has printed off more than 100 objects, he said.

“For small objects, it usually takes 15 to 30 minutes. But it could take several hours for the much larger objects.” Murray said. 

In recent years, 3-D printing models have been made available for general public use.

Bancroft said this program brings manufacturing from businesses to households.

“It’s literally manufacturing on your desk,” Bancroft said. “It’ll bring the same changes to society that occurred when computers went from businesses to homes.”

Brookfield Public Library, 3609 Grand Blvd., is offering several 3-D design and printing programs to patrons of all ages.

“It’s good for kids to learn and design things and see the result,” Bancroft said. “If you can imagine it, you can make it.”

He said there’s a wide range of what people are making with these programs. 

“People are making ears and robot hands. This technology applies to everything,” Bancroft said.

During a presentation Jan. 29 at Brookfield Public Library, Murray showed Carolyn Billington, another library patron, how to use Tinkercard to make a 3-D design.

“Anyone from a housewife to a businessman can have great opportunities to use this,” Billington said. “It’s not something you just play around with; it’s useful.”

Murray said the library purchased the MakerBot Replicator 2 printer with a grant from the Illinois State Library in July. He added, around that same time, the $2,491 printer was at the top of the market list.

“A couple years ago, these printers were tens of thousands of dollars,” Murray said. “Now they’re much more affordable for homeowners.”

He said other libraries, such as the Chicago Public Library, also have these 3-D printers. Murray added the Brookfield Public Library is the only library with this technology in the area.

Newer versions of the printer are now available, such as the MakerBot Replicator 2X. Murray said this technology has been around since the 1970s and 1980s.

But, he added the library‘s printer has one limitation.

“The tallest object we can make can only be 6 inches tall.”

The 3-D printing expert said 60 companies are now making these 3-D printers. He added that only six months ago it was 40.

Patrons can have the library print their 3-D image by saving the image and then emailing the file to reference@brookfieldlibrary.info.

Murray said these 3-D printing programs are an innovative form of technology that are attracting more people to the library. He added 50 people showed up to the first open lab on 3-D printing at the library. 

“For the longest [time], libraries have been a place for people to consume information,” Murray said. “We want to give people the opportunity to create their own information.”

The programs have gotten positive feedback from patrons so far and the Brookfield Public Library plans to create a 3-D printing club in March. 

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