Education

Have you ever wanted to make a 3D design? All you’ll need is a library card.

Kevin Bryant holds one of the items printed on the Washington Library’s new three dimensional printer, at rear, which is about the size of a microwave oven. Librarians are holding classes on how the use the device.
Kevin Bryant holds one of the items printed on the Washington Library’s new three dimensional printer, at rear, which is about the size of a microwave oven. Librarians are holding classes on how the use the device. bcabell@macon.com

Muted zips and mechanical whirrs could be heard on the second floor of Washington Memorial Library late Wednesday morning as a figurine of a wizard was printed into existence.

The sleek white gizmo, which looks more like a miniature refrigerator with a glass door, is one of two 3D printers at Middle Georgia Regional libraries purchased a few months ago with federal grant money. Another printer is located at Lanford Library on Houston Road.

“One of the things that was most surprising for us when it first started is that we had teen programs and different activities on the schedule, and our adults kept showing up … with very practical application of prototyping and things like that,” Jennifer Lautzenheiser, director of the Middle Georgia Regional Library System, told The Telegraph. “We thought, ‘Our community is more ready for this that we anticipated,’ which is a good thing.”

The 3D printer, a CubePro Duo, has been only available for special programming, but now library card holders who take a short, free class are able to print objects at a minimum cost of $2.50 for the plastic material, which is 15 cents per gram.

The machine melts the plastic and constructs the object layer-by-layer, much like a traditional ink printer.

Tim Spishock, reference technology specialist for the library, said the printer can print in two colors at once.

Objects as big as 10 square inches can be assembled. Files containing a 3D model of the object must be submitted by email at wmlref@bibblib.org, or by bringing a USB drive containing the file in .stl or .CubeProformat to the library.

Recently, someone printed parts for a small candy machine and assembled it into a functioning dispenser. Business cards with braille and a miniature replica of the Macon Coliseum are among other recent creations.

“There’s a lot you can do with it if you take the time to think the process through,” Spishock said. “I’m really excited to see what people come up with.”

Lautzenheiser said the acquisition of the 3D printer is an important step to address a need for technological literacy in Middle Georgia.

“It’s really important that our community learn how to not be passive consumers of technology but really learn how to manipulate it to really make a difference and problem solve,” she said.

Classes required to use the 3D printer are set for 6 p.m. Jan. 16 and Jan. 30 at Washington Memorial Library.

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