Trumbull Library System’s Fairchild Branch may be the second library in Connecticut to have its own 3D Printer – a just purchased MakerBot Replicator2 Desktop 3D Printer. On Wednesday Demas Bello, a Trumbull resident and a representative of Westport Library – the home of the first – set ours up and gave a brief demonstration for Mary Rogers, the Library System’s Associate Director for Information Systems and Louis Sheehy, its Assistant Director.
Our 3D printer looks sort of like a big computer printer, and operates very similarly. 3D printers require Computer Aided Design (CAD) software that translate pictures, diagrams or technical drawings of objects into computer readable code. This code guides a small nozzle that feeds a fine filament of biodegradable PLA plastic to produce – print – three dimensional objects by laying down row atop row of the plastic on a heated table.
A lot of CAD software is open source - user created and free(ly) available. MakerBot's Thingiverse, for example, a CAD program library offering a vast catalog of downloadable programs. Numerous other sites offer even greater varieties of “pre-programmed” objects - all ready for use by hobbyists, model builders, inventors and researchers, by entrepreneurs prototyping new products and Do It Yourselfers who just want to replace a broken plastic part.
As Bello began printing a small cup, we were joined by ten year old William Cardone, a fifth grader at Booth Hill School. He called the live demo “awesome” even though he's seen 3D printers on the Internet.
Through the efforts of Sue Horton, the Director of our Library System, we have the printer, and have made it a feature attraction of March's One Book One Town celebration. The one book is Walter Isaacson's best selling biography Steve Jobs.
Programming will be about “How Technology has Changed Our Lives” and will offer a wide range of events for everyone from young children to seniors: an evening of Pixar animated short films (One of the six industries Jobs revolutionized was animated films. He invested in and joined Pixar in 1986 after being fired from Apple, the company he started.), a lecture about his ethics, a debate about Internet censorship between Trumbull and St. Joseph's High Schools and a program for seniors interested in learning about the social media their grandchildren are always on.
The 3D printer will be focus of a number of hands-on sessions open to everyone to who wants to learn to use it. It is located at the Branch and will continue to be a community resource following the One Book One Town programming.
Trumbull is clearly early to this technology. Estimates are that there are only about 100,000 consumer 3D printers in use today. We are an innovator – the first stage, the one preceding the early adopter. We're early enough that we are, according to one source, an “outlier” and a “paradigm changer.”
Sometimes being number two is pretty terrific!