Newest print technology comes to library

Jill Schramm/MDN Teen librarian Pam Carswell, center, and assistant teen librarian Kassie Ziegler, far right, work with youth at a workshop on 3D printing March 13 at Minot Public Library. At left is the library’s 3D printer.

It’s a new age for Minot Public Library with the arrival of a 3D printer this year.

The latest technology has created a new role for teen librarian Pam Carswell and her assistant, Kassie Ziegler, who have taken on the task of mastering the printer and working with library patrons on its use.

“We have been learning as we go. We have been learning a little bit every day,” Carswell said. “We are having a lot of fun with it and I think the patrons are going to enjoy it. The kids are constantly in my office to find out what I am doing,” Carswell said.

The library primarily uses two websites, Thingaverse and Tinkerpad, for its open-source designs, which are available to the public for personal use at no cost. There’s also the capability to modify an existing design or create a design of one’s own. The Tinkerpad website, which includes tutorials, allows Minot’s library staff and other users to share designs they’ve modified or created. The website also includes design options related to kid favorites, such as Pokeman and Minecraft.

Carswell said the library has printed computer and phone cablecord guards, key chains, cookie cutters and other sample items as staff have been learning the technology since Jan. 1.

She credited Warren Gamas, an associate professor in teacher education and kinesiology at Minot State University, for help in getting up to speed on 3D printing. The library purchased the Maker Bot Replicator Mini+ with a $4,200 grant from Best Buy, which also has been providing support in using the printer.

The printer became available for patron use in early March. Cost is 20 cents per gram of filament, with a typical small project costing in the range of $2 to $4. Patrons need to present their library cards to have projects printed.

Some of the early projects have included a fishing lure, car model, backpack pulls and figurines. The library reserves the right to decline printing if a project is deemed inappropriate.

Other examples of items people can print on the 3D printer include vases, game pieces and equipment parts. 3D printers allow designs to be produced for purposes of testing much more efficiently and at a low cost.

The printer uses polylactic acid polymer, made from renewable plant material that is food safe. The filament comes as plastic string on a spool. The library has filament in all the primary colors, along with shades such as orange and purple and traditional black, gray, beige and white.

The filament runs through an extruder, where it is heated and melted. The printer lays a test strip and then creates a “raft” or a base for the item to be printed, which helps ensure stability on the plate. The raft later can be removed from the item.

The printer has about a 5-inch build plate. If larger items are desired, the item can be printed in pieces and later glued or otherwise fashioned together.

People can get design assistance at the library but should call ahead to ensure a librarian is available. They also can bring their ready-made designs on a flash drive to the library at any time for printing. Printing can take multiple hours so people should plan to pick up the printed projects at a later time. A cookie cutter might take an hour and a half to print, for instance.

The library also has a hand-held scanner that can be used to scan items to create a replica design for printing. Carswell said it is possible to do human scans but remaining very still is a requirement.

Trevor Ricks, an eighth-grader in Minot, became familiar with 3D printing in school. However, he’s not currently in a class that gives him the opportunity to use a printer, so when he saw a sign for a workshop at the library’s Makerspace in March, he decided to drop by.

“It just sounds fun,” he said as he worked his way through a design tutorial on a library computer.

Sixth-grader Lisa Vetter had a previous experience with designing for a 3D print project that didn’t turn out as hoped, but she was interested enough to try again at the library workshop. She even knew what she’d like to make someday.

“I like to make dogs and unicorns,” she said.

The library will offer teen classes on making a 3D keychain April 17 and a 3D vase on May 1, both from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Makerspace.

Use of the 3D printer will extend into the summer reading program. Program participants will design bells and whistles that will be printed and used as noise-makers at a kickoff celebration for the “Libraries Rock” summer reading event. Carswell said they also hope to print four-stringed 3D harps that will stand about four inches high to give to participants.