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Meet the Library's 3D Printer!

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What is a 3D printer?

The library's 3D printer creates small plastic objects one layer at a time.

Below is a fast-motion video of our 3D printer in action so you can get an idea of what it looks like.

How can I use the library's 3D printer?

  1. Download a 3D model (.stl file) or create your own design
  2. on this webpage
  3. Pick up your object when it's ready (the library will notify you)

How does the 3D printer work?

The Design Process

Use a CAD (computer aided design) app like Tinkercad or Blender to combine shapes into a 3D object and save your design as a .stl file.

Upload your .stl file on this web page and select a color. Next, the library uses a special "slicer" app called Makerbot Desktop to "slice" your design into very thin layers. The 3D printer is now ready to create, or "print", the object by depositing melted plastic one layer at a time (this process is called fused deposition modeling).

The Printing Process

The slicer app sends its instructions to the library's 3D printer (over a network connection or USB cable) and the library prepares the printer by loading plastic into its extruder.

The 3D printer uses a special plastic (thermoplastic filament) that softens at high temperatures and hardens when cooled. The printer's extruder pulls the plastic in and heats it until it is soft, at which point the extruder is ready to release the melted plastic through a nozzle.

We are finally ready to print. A flat platform (printing bed) raises until it just underneath the extruder, leaving just enough space to print the first layer. The extruder moves around above the platform and releases plastic in the shape of the first layer. The platform lowers to leave space for the next layer, the extruder prints the next layer, and this process repeats until the object is completed.

Glossary

CAD (Computer Aided Design)
Apps that run on your computer or device to help you create models of 3D objects.
Extruder
The part of the 3D printer that grips and loads thermoplastic filament, heats it until it is pliable, and releases it onto a printing bed through its nozzle.
Fused Deposition Modeling
An additive manufacturing process where molten thermoplastic filament is extruded one layer at a time (also called fused filament fabrication).
Printing Bed
A flat platform in the 3D printer that the object is printed on.
Slicer
App that runs on your computer or device that "slices" a 3D design into thin layers that a 3D printer can print.
STL
Common file format exported by CAD programs that encodes the geometry of a 3D object using a tessellation technique that maps the surface of the object with triangles. STL is an abbreviation of stereolithography, an early additive manufacturing process invented by 3D printer inventor Ken Hull.
Thermoplastic Filament
Spools of plastic that are pliable at high temperatures and solid when cooled.
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