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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.

— The Bethlehem Library has always been a place where people congregate and create, said Kirkpatrick. A knitting group has met at the library for decades, as have writing groups and other artists. With few people currently having the funds or necessity to purchase a 3D printer for home use, the hope is that the printer allows for another creative outlet.

“I’m not sure what people will use it to create,” said Kirkpatrick. “I’m leaving that up to them.”

He said the public is welcome to come and just play around with the device, and people shouldn’t be intimidated if they have no set purpose.

During the orientation, the library’s technology and communications specialist John Love tells people the printer works much like a giant glue gun. A large spindle of thin, plastic filament is attached to the back of the printer. The tubing is then feed into a metal tip, which heats the plastic and pipes it in the desired pattern onto a glass plate.

The system comes with pre-designed items and additional objects can be found using the website Thingiverse.com. The library also purchased a “digitizer,” which takes 3D scans of an object already in someone’s possession to be copied onscreen and then printed.

“We don’t have that part down yet, but we will soon,” said Love. “It’s almost like something from Star Trek.”

The library is not charging for use of the equipment but is charging for the amount of plastic used. A small scale is located next to the printer so patrons can weigh their project. The library staff is asking for 5 cents a gram, and those using the printer will need to pay for the plastic they use even if the build fails.

The plastic filament is recyclable and compostable. It also comes in a variety of colors, but because the IT staff needs to be present to change the spindle, those using the printer will be limited to the use of one color per project.

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