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3D Printing

stock-photo-55466088-3d-printer (1)What is 3D Printing?

3D Printing is a process that builds objects by placing layer upon layer of material that combine into a three dimensional object. Different 3D printers build using different materials, such as plastics, wood, glass and metal. Our 3D Printer is the CubePro Duo. It has two print jets that use plastic to build objects.

cubepro_duoYou can see the Library’s CubePro Duo in action in this video. It is building two Maltese Falcon figurines of different colors at the same time.

It cannot combine two colors into one object, but the material it prints with accepts latex paint very well, as you can see in our mascots, Feeple and Threedee.

Feeple_small                 ThreeDee_small

How are 3D prints created?

3D prints are designed using computer aided drafting & design programs, or CAD. The most common, free one for 3D printing is TinkerCAD. You would design your object in TinkerCAD and then the software for our printer would convert it to be printed. TinkerCAD is a free program, but you do have to register.

How do I learn to create 3D printable files?

There are several instructional videos and practice files on TinkerCAD itself. You can also use Lynda Library a resource the library provides with lessons on hundreds of subjects. Simply log in with your library card to study whatever you like. There are lessons on CAD, and even three specific to TinkerCAD. For more advanced learners there are classes on 3D scanning with your camera as well.

3D Scanning? That sounds interesting.

It’s a process of taking many photos all around an object that are then combined by a computer program into a 3D image. You can download an app called 123D Catch to do it with your phone. 123D Catch is a product of Autodesk, the same people who make TinkerCAD, so you can use the same account to work with both products. Once you have your image, you can incorporate it into other objects, or just print it on its own. Here’s a video to give you an idea.

What if I don’t want to make my own? Where can I find files to print?

Many people who create 3D printed objects share their designs online. You can find files that others have made that you can print either on TinkerCAD or Thingiverse.

What are libraries doing with 3D printers?

Many libraries allow patrons to print their own designs on the printer, and FPL expects to be doing that in the future. This can help a number of people, from those designing new products, for someone who needs a replacement part for a broken object in their home, to people creating art. Libraries also help in a more direct way through the e-Nable Project. e-Nable brings together people around the world who have 3D printers with people, mostly children, in need of prosthetic hands. Here’s an introduction.

Giving The World A “Helping Hand” from Jen Martin Studios on Vimeo.

Where can I get even more help on my design?

Please check with our community partner on this, the Mott Community College FABLAB.


They have students who are able to help get the idea out of the customers head, onto paper, into a CAD 3-D model and a final prototype. Their 3D printer can also print in more materials than ours. You can also find help at Flint Steam Works, a community makerspace in downtown Flint. They have CAD software available for use, as well as their own 3D printer and other tools.


What’s next for 3D Printing at Flint Public Library?

We at Flint Public Library are excited about taking part in the eNable project in 2016. Look for the 3D printer in the library, printing the parts for prosthetic hands. And keep watching this space and checking our calendar for your opportunities to get involved.