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How To: Use Our 3-D Printer

Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Photo of things printed on a 3D printer


“The process for 3-D printing actually dates back to the mid-to-late 1980s,” says Luis. “3-D printing, or additive manufacturing, is the not so new – new technology. Back in the 'olden days' 3-D printing was used in very select industries like aerospace and medical."

  We had so many questions for Luis, like how it works and what to expect when printing. First thing's first, here are some tips and tricks for using our 3-D printing service so you’ll know just what to do!

3-D Printing at the Library in 3 Easy Steps:

  1. Upload an .stl file using the 3-D request form (The form is located under Services, 3-D Printing.) There are also links on the E-Services page which can be accessed by clicking Events/Computer Classes.
  2. Next, the .stl file you submitted will be evaluated by an E-Specialist for printing integrity. If we find a problem we will contact you directly to try and figure it out. Make sure your design is superficial only. Do not try to use the plastic as a bike replacement part or a piece that will be under pressure.
    • According to Luis, one of our E-Library Specialists, here are the two most common mistakes when it comes to printing, and how to avoid them:
      • Make sure the print is completely “watertight” – which means that there are no gaps in the design surface.
      • Make sure the surface of the design will either be touching the design surface or a part of it touches the design surface. When the completed file is sent to the printer if it is “floating” it will cause the print to fail.
  1. Last, but not least, you will be notified by E-Services when your print job is complete! Completed jobs will be available for pickup at Beaches Branch and Main Library. Your design should be ready within approximately 14 days – depending on demand.

According to Luis “there are three different processes used in 3-D printing. The first is called the StereoLithogrAphic process and it uses a liquid resin and powerful laser to create high-resolution objects. The second process is known as SLS or (Selective Laser Sintering). Instead of using liquid resin this process uses a powder (usually nylon polymer). Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) sometimes also called Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) is the final type, and what we use at the library.”

“Fun Fact: SLA printers once were the size of a large refrigerator and are now available in desktop models.“

Here’s how the FFF/FDM Printer we have works:

  1. Load in a relatively low-cost spool of plastic.
  2. That spool of plastic gets melted by the printers “hotend.”
  3. That warm plastic is deposited on a build surface layer by layer until the object is created.

Luis says that the types of material that these printers use ranges from ABS plastic which is LEGO’s material (our feet just hurt thinking about it), PLA, a biodegradable and non-toxic starch-based plastic, to PETG, which is made from recycled water bottles. The types of materials are growing on almost a daily basis. FFF/FDM style of printer is the most popular and affordable types of 3-D printers, and before you get your own try ours out!

We currently have nine FFF/FDM type printers in our collection. Luis says these are used mostly for educational purposes. “These printers are used to produce items for other library programs like teen robotics classes, as demonstration aids in the introductory classes, and in the library’s 3-D printing service.”

JPL has been offering classes on 3-D printing for about two years in all 21 branch locations. Our classes cover the basics like Introduction to 3-D printing, and intermediate topics like 3-D Design: Tinkercad. For the more advanced, we’ve got classes on Blende and Inkscape. All classes are free and open to the public and no registration is required. Special seasonal classes are also offered during the Christmas holidays like, “3-D Design:Tinkercad which allows patrons to design and print an original holiday ornament at no charge.”

 These programs are all free and no registration is necessary! Really, really! To find the next available classes visit our catalog for times, dates, and locations convenient to you. Once you’ve taken a class on how to create a design with TinkerCad we offer affordable 3-D printing services too. You can submit a ready-made or personalized file for 3-D printing. There is a $1 set up fee and the price of your print depends on gram weight of material used. (Current rate is .05 cents per gram.) Colors are limited and only PLA is used for printing. Follow this link for uploading files and instructions (including what can and cannot be printed). Currently, there are only two pick up locations, the Main branch on Laura St. and the Beaches location on 3rd Avenue in Neptune Beach.

Luis ended with words of encouragement, “Come and join us and explore the possibilities that 3-D printing has to offer. Happy printing!” Start your summer fun now, come visit us! 

Jacksonville Public Library