3D Printers for Libraries

I spent yesterday hanging out at the GigTank Demo Day, listening to 3D printing startups pitch their ideas and companies at investors. It was a fantastic event, as is normal for things that the Company Lab is running, and I had a good time listening to the excitement around 3D printing as a technology.

It made me want to look back and see how long I’ve been following this technology, and I was dumbfounded to discover that the first mention of 3D printing on this very blog was in 2006. In October of 2006 I posted about a company called Fabjectory that was way ahead of the curve in providing 3D printing as a service for people. Then, not quite a year later I held the first 3D printed object that I’d ever touched, and it happened to be a print of myself as a Nintendo Mii. That was in August of 2007!

In 2011 I was asked to record a video by the LITA Top Tech Trends committee as an experiment for doing some information updates on technology between ALA Annual and Midwinter, and the trend I pointed to was 3D printing.

There’s a lot more that I’ve written over the years, ranging from my interviews with Bre Pettis (CEO of Makerbot Industries) about libraries and 3D printing to reporting last year for American Libraries on the 3D printing news from CES 2014.

3D Printers for Libraries

All this time and interest in the technology is coming to head in the publication of a new Library Technology Report that I have written on 3D printing, called 3D Printers for Libraries. In it I explain all of the varieties of 3D printing and 3D printers, from the inexpensive fused-deposition printers that most libraries are installing to the highest end Electron Beam Melting printers that are used to produce medical-grade implants. I go through the pros and cons of a variety of manufacturers, and make suggestions for libraries who are just getting started in offering 3D printing as a service.

If your library is looking at starting to offer 3D printing, this is a good reference work to help you make some decisions about types of printers and pitfalls and problems you may see with them. If your library would like some help in making decisions like this, or in figuring out how ┬áto offer 3D printing to your patrons, feel free to contact me (griffey at gmail.com or @griffey on Twitter). I’d love to help you get to a place where your staff is confident in offering 3D printing as a new technology offering from your library.