Experience 3D Printing at the Gaston College Morris Library
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Experience 3D Printing at the Gaston College Morris Library

Experience 3D Printing at the Gaston College Morris Library

In 2015, Gaston College received a Library Services and Technology Grant that was used to transform a microfilm storage space in the Morris Library into a training lab, and to purchase computers and a 3D printer for the lab. The Morris Library Training Lab provides Gaston College students, faculty, and staff with a learning-centered environment that encourages them to explore ways to utilize 3D printing and scanning technologies.

4 Pokemon 3D images3D printing is the process of making a physical object from a digital model. Originally used in highly specialized fields like biotechnology, aerospace, medical technology, art restoration and reproduction, and robotics, 3D printing applications are expanding to include, for example, fashion, food, firearms, and construction, as well as uses for hobbyists, students, and homemakers.

The 3D printer at the Morris Library is intended to promote creativity and innovation among the Gaston College community, and it has been utilized to create elements for class and personal projects. In a nod to the current Pokémon Go craze, a student project produced models of four Pokémon characters.

Jesse St. Laurent, a Mechanical Engineering Technology major at Gaston College, drew a piston rod in his drafting class, submitted the drawing in the compatible format, and the 3D printer produced the piston rod. St. Laurent, who will graduate in 2017, wants a career in which he can bring innovations to the design and manufacturing of cars and trains. “In the industry of designing new car parts, you can 3D print a part and test for defects for a fraction of the cost of creating a mold which could be thousands of dollars,” said St. Laurent. “3D printing a new part to test before mass production can save a company a lot of money.”

Blue Keep Pounding 3D imageIn order to create objects with the 3D printer at Morris Library, it is necessary to submit a file in the “stl” (STereoLithography) format that is standard for 3D printers. Files in stl format can be found on many webpages, such as Thingiverse.com or Yeggi.com. Files also can be created using 3D software or by using the 3D scanner in the library.

When the file is submitted, the library staff will determine how long the project will take to print and the cost of the printed object, which is priced by finished weight at 20 cents per gram, with a minimum cost of $1.00. With receipt of a signed 3D Printer Request form, the library staff will enter the project into a queue and it will be printed in the order in which the request was received. Only designated library staff members have hands-on access to the 3D printer.

The MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation printer in use at the Morris Library produces objects made of PLA plant-based plastic. The maximum size for objects produced is 9 by 7 by 5 inches. The capability to print using multi-colored filaments has recently been added, so projects now can be printed in red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, and glow-in-the-dark.

“The 3D printer allows our students access to a new technology that they may have heard of in the past or through the news, but never had the chance to see or use,” said Calvin Craig, Information Access Librarian. “Many students have come in to ask about the printer and hopefully this will spark their creativity to learn more about 3D technologies, learn about 3D software, and to use the technology for their own ideas.”

Gaston College is active in providing workshops and resources for local small businesses through its Small Business Center, and in preparing students for careers in the manufacturing industry. Craig is eager to introduce these sectors to the technology. “3D printing is very useful in the small business field, and being able to share and develop prototypes is invaluable in manufacturing. The library helps to provide an accessible open space for students and individuals working with our Small Business Center to explore 3D printing.”

For more information about the 3D printer and other resources at the Morris Library, contact Calvin Craig at craig.calvin@gaston.edu or 704-922-6357.

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