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Bethlehem Library home to new 3D printer

New technology one of the first in the area

The Bethlehem Public Library has purchased one of the area's first three-dimensional printers for public use. ABOVE: The Makerbot Replicator2 prints out a small plastic chain. Access is free, but the public will be charged for the plastic used to build their creations by weight.

The Bethlehem Public Library has purchased one of the area's first three-dimensional printers for public use. ABOVE: The Makerbot Replicator2 prints out a small plastic chain. Access is free, but the public will be charged for the plastic used to build their creations by weight. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— A main focus of a community library is often to help the public gain access to somewhat scarce items, things that can enrich and educate the population but aren’t always affordable to those of modest means.

From scrolls and books in the beginning, to computers and Internet access in more recent years, libraries must also be on the cutting edge of innovation as technology moves forward. It was with this thought that the Bethlehem Public Library purchased one of the region’s first three-dimensional printers.

“This is just another asset that the library buys and the public can use a slice of,” said BPL Director Geoffrey Kirkpatrick.

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Plastic three-dimensional items printed out as tests by the Bethlehem Public Library's IT staff.

He said money was set aside for months in order to purchase the Makerbot Replicator 2. The desktop package the library bought sells for about $3,000, but the library also received an education discount.

Kirkpatrick said the prices had gone down low enough where he felt he could justify finally making the purchase. He said the only other 3D printer he knows of that is available for public use is at the Tech Valley Center of Gravity/Capital District Makerspace in Troy.

The library’s printer arrived in October, and for about a month, the library’s information technology staff worked to get themselves acclimated with the system. Several large group presentations have been given at the library since, but starting this month, members of the community can sign up for two-hour time slots to use the printer.

For now, anyone with an Upper Hudson Library System card can use the printer, but anyone wishing to do so must first take a 30-minute orientation with the IT staff and sign a waiver. Children under 14 will need adult supervision when using the printer, and kids under 18 must also have their parents sign the waiver for liability purposes.

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