By Lisa Capobianco
From hair combs to iPhone cases to bracelets, members of Southington Public Library have a variety of items to create with the help of the new three-dimensional printer, which uses corn-starched-based plastic filament to mold objects.
“It is cool because it is environmentally-friendly,” said Sue Smayda, the executive director of Southington Public Library.
Due to a portion of a $5,841 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, the library purchased a Makerbot Replicator II printer, which can create more than multiple objects at the same time.
“This is a perfect combination of science, technology, engineering, art and math,” Smayda said.
Once the printer starts creating the object with one layer, it gradually adds more layers until it has completed the project. The bigger the object, the more layers it requires, according to Smayda. The menu bar in front of the printer keeps track of the progress, indicating the percentage of the project’s completion. Users can make one object in multiple pieces and then glue them together, such as the glass that Smayda made. The amount of time it takes to create each object ranges from 12 minutes to an hour.
“It is cutting-edge technology,” Smayda said. “I like the combination of art and engineering.”
For first-time users, Smayda recommends choosing objects located on the library’s SD card, which contains a file of pre-tested objects that the printer will definitely create. The file contains objects including an iPhone case, a hair comb, a bracelet, a chain and other items. Users can slip the SD card directly into the printer, and select the object they wish to create. They must monitor the printer at all times during its operation, especially if a filament jam occurs.
Besides choosing files from the SD card, users can also create their own objects using three-dimensional software programs, including 3DTin and Thingiverse, all free of charge. Thingiverse is an online forum where users share digital designs. Prior to using these programs and the printer, library members must watch the YouTube instructional videos, located on the library’s website.
“The 3D programs are challenging and fun,” said Smayda, who used 3D Tin to create her glass.
Library member Mario Tito and his family used some object files on Thingiverse, including a “bendy” figure with articulated joints, a pen with his daughter’s name built into it, and two Lego mini lightning bolts. The pen took the longest to make—with a total of one hour and 45 minutes.
Tito said he felt amazed by what the printer could make, and hopes it will serve as a learning experience for anyone who uses the new medium.
“This printer at the library is a great opportunity to learn about what is essentially a new medium,” Tito said. “That is a big hurdle. Just learning the aspects and properties of the printer is a big step to understanding the potential uses.”
Hours of operation for the printer are Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m., Fridays from 2-4 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 2-4 p.m. Users must have a valid Southington Library card and must be age 13 or older. Children age 12 and under must have adult supervision. Users can reserve their time with the printer for a maximum of two sessions per calendar month up to 30 days in advance. The printer can be booked for two hours at a time, ending one hour before the library closes.