3-D printer featured at Main Library
Now available for student use in the Main Library — 3-D printers.
allows individuals to make 3-D objects via a device that takes a file containing an electronic image of an object and uses a material to slowly build, layer-by-layer, a physical replica of object.
“Our printer creates an object out of plastic filament,” said Jonah Magar , MSU library’s Espresso Book Machine coordinator.
The filament is a plastic wire that’s an ethanol and corn-based biodegradable product. The printer melts the wire and the extruder takes the melted plastic and reforms it layer-by-layer.
It’s not as overwhelming as it sounds. Just as a conventional printer prints out, words that are typed on a computer screen line-by-line, a 3-D printer prints out an object in a software file line-by-line, from bottom to top.
The printers use software programs such as AutoCAD or SketchUP to get the template for their design, and different 3-D printers use different materials to create the mass of the end product. MSU’s printer uses melted plastic, but others use powders or melted steel.
That’s what makes the technology so appealing to so many fields. There is a seemingly endless amount of possibilities for its application to the real world.
“There are an amazing array of uses, we just have to make our imaginations think in that way,” said MSU’s future makerspace coordinator Erica Ervin, who will step into her new role next week. “It’s so new, we don’t know everything we can do with it yet.”
Ervin explained that from prosthetic arms and legs to car parts, almost anything can be created from a 3-D printer. MSU’s Makerbot Replicator doesn’t have the capability of the most advanced 3-D printers, but it can be used for education, said MSU entrepreneurship librarian Terence O’Neill.
“We’re trying to come up with examples of academically relevant things you can print,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill was using one of the library’s two new printers on Tuesday to create a scaled-down replica of the Taung Child, which is a well-known fossilized skull of an early human found in South Africa in the 1920s. Discovery of the Taung Child aided the theory that modern humans .
“I thought it would be a fantastic example of something you could print and have as an artifact that might mean something more than a photo, or to show a video or to just describe it,” O’Neill said of the reproduction. “If you’re telling its story and it’s part of your teaching, you could incorporate this in class — the actual replica.”
The printers are around $2,800 each, and Magar described the cost to print an object as “very reasonable.” He estimated O’Neill’s fossilized skull, a fairly complex project that took about four hours to print, would cost around $10.
Library staff are hoping students come in and think up their own items to print.