Printing With Purpose

3D printing is publicly available to use in the Feilding Library and staff encourage the public to come in, try it out, and learn about the printers.  What can be printed is really how far your imagination can stretch.

3D printing is still quite a perplexing concept for many people and yet it has been publicly available in many libraries for well over 15 years.  The Feilding Library has offered the service for 6 years and while there have been some pretty neat collaborations the service is fairly underutilised.

A big reason for this Stew Wilson, Library Makerspace Specialist explains is that people are still learning about the potential of 3D printing, and often feel they have to know everything about a technology before they dive in.  “The best way to learn is to play and know that it’s ok to make mistakes!”  Wilson has also learned by trial and error and encourages the public to know the 3D printers are in the library to be discovered and explored in the same way you would use the computers or books.

So how does it work?  There are two different plastic types that we use; one made from sweet corn of all things called PLA plastic and a more rigid though still flexible plastic called PETG.  Depending on what is being made, determines the type of plastic used.  Similarly to traditional paper printing, the computer tells the printer what to print.  Though unlike a paper printer where the sheet is printed all at once, the 3D printer prints layer by layer like a hot glue gun, releasing the heated plastic before cooling.  The print job is priced at 10 cents per gram of printed product.

What can be printed is really how far your imagination can stretch. 3D printing can be used to make toys or decorations, can help small businesses, and can even replicate worn out parts to extend the life of something.  “We have had really complex engineering designs to fun custom requests like cake toppers,” Wilson explains. From ornamental dragons and figurines to more useful items like laundry scoops, cupboard handles, and stamps - the opportunities are endless.

3D printers are just the tip of the iceberg for the upcoming Makerspace at the Manawatū Community Hub Libraries.  The Makerspace will feature a suite of DIY and hobbyist equipment like a laser cutter, CNC router, cameo vinyl cutter, heat press, resin printer, and sewing machines.

Ready to buy 3D printed items are on display at the Feilding Library though if there is something in particular a person would like to have printed, Wilson encourages them to come into the library and “just ask”.  If it can be printed, staff are keen to try!

Left: Stew Wilson, Library Makerspace Specialist holding the 3D printed light box with a 3D printer behind him.
Right: A closer view of the 3D printed box where each side hosts a historic photo of Feilding.  The side shown, is a printed image of a previous Feilding Library location.

Banner photo: Some of the items on display and ready for purchase at the Feilding Library.