3D Printing at Your Library

by Corinne Shortridge

Of all the fun and innovative technology we house in VIRL’s Creativity Commons, our 3-D printer may be the most popular. 3-D printers work by interpreting digitally modeled drawings, and rendering them into three dimensional objects. The 3-D models are designed in a computer-aided design (CAD) software program such as TinkerCAD or Blender. TinkerCAD, our go-to software, is a free, online, web-based program that is easy to learn, even if you don’t have a background in computer-aided design.

After we give the 3-D printer instructions (via the 3-D modelling file, in .stl format), it dispenses layer upon layer of fine strips of polymer material, until the object has been constructed from the printing bed up. In the Creativity Commons, we use plant-based polymers that are biodegradable.

3-D printing in the Creativity Commons has been used for a variety of purposes. We have had customers print everything from business idea prototypes, board game pieces, VW curtain hangers, and toys and trinkets. One of the most interesting projects we had was a local archaeologist who 3-D printed a rendering of a fossil so it could be shared as an educational tool.

Since the Creativity Commons opened 3-D printing services in September 2020, our 3-D printer has been running almost non-stop. We have seen an explosion in demand for our 3-D printed nose clips, which eliminate the dreaded foggy glasses that result from wearing a cloth mask. The 3-D printed nose clips cost about $0.25 cents each and can be ordered by emailing cc@virl.bc.ca. They can be picked up at any branch in the VIRL system.

If you’re interested in getting a 3-D print, you are in luck! Email your .stl file to cc@virl.bc.ca and we can determine whether it’s possible for us to print. We are limited by the size of the print (think: smaller than a baseball) and by the time it takes to execute the print, with a max print time of 6 hours per file. However, we can let you know quickly whether it’s possible or not.

If you’re not ready to learn TinkerCAD, check out Thingiverse, a free database of peer-shared 3-D print designs. You may be surprised by what you’ll find!