The University of Maryland’s student newspaper, the Diamondback, recently reported that the UMD Libraries have installed a 3D printer in the Terrapin Learning Commons. Before new tools like this are installed, User and Systems Support (USS) conducts extensive research and testing. In this case, USS obtained a MakerBot 3D Printer. The relatively small piece of desktop equipment is one of the most exciting we have seen in years. A 3D printer works by feeding a 3D design into a computer program, which then sends the information to the printer. The printer builds the object from the bottom up, depositing a plastic (PLA) filament in horizontal layers onto a build platform, and resulting in an actual object that can be used however intended.
Libraries are increasingly making 3D printers available to patrons – they are excellent ways to create models or other products necessary for school work and design. While USS staff have been having their own fun, they have also been experimenting with useful designs and thinking about ways to use the 3D printer to produce supplies, such as cable organizers: