Karina Douglas, the reference librarian at the Timmins Public Library, has been busy teaching people in the city how to operate the MakerBot 3D printer. The printer arrived at the library back in October and has recently become available for public use
TIMMINS - Almost 30 people have become qualified 3D printer operators since the Timmins Public Library began holding orientation sessions on the technology this month.
The MakerBot Replicator landed in Timmins back in October and after taking some time to orient themselves with the machine and work out all of the kinks, library staff are now teaching the public how to operate it themselves.
Karina Douglas, the reference librarian at the Timmins Public Library, said the orientation sessions have been popular so far and are often full to capacity.
She said residents of all ages have expressed an interest in learning to use the machine, as have members of the business community.
“Some people from the mining companies are interested in being able to see if they can take an AutoCad file, convert it, and do a 3D representation of one of the mines,” Douglas said. “There are two people that are business owners who would like to see if they can make their logo into a little souvenir or cookie press or something with their logo on it, too.”
Although the printer at the library doesn’t have infinite applications, Douglas said that people have been experimenting with new projects all the time.
When they first received the printer, projects were limited to the use of green material and very basic patterns.
While each project still does have to be uniform in colour, there are many more to pick from today and the scope of patterns that can be printed has advanced.
Douglas said she has heard of other locations where designers created software that even enabled the printer to play the “Imperial March” from Star Wars.
“In the medical field there’s been a few big stories lately too,” she added. “The Toronto Sick Kids hospital has actually been making models of pediatric hearts for surgeons to practise on, allowing them to be able to practise earlier on in their career than what was previously possible.”
No human organs have been printed at the Timmins Library so far — and likely never will — but hearing about these capabilities helps to inspire the creativity of those using the MakerBot here in the city.
“It’s not the identical technology but you get an idea of what it’s all about and that it’s right at your doorstep,” Douglas said.
Science Timmins also has a few 3D printers that they will be setting up soon and Douglas said that having more than one in the city will help diversify the kinds of projects people are making.
“As we see what the two organizations come up with sort of working together, if there’s newer technology coming along and people are interested, I can see the potential for it expanding and evolving from there,” she said. “But for the next year or so, people will be just experimenting with the replicator.”
The printer is very user-friendly, she added, and is even accessible to those who may not have the skill or the desire to learn how to operate the software.
“If you’re not so design savvy but would like something cool to have that’s printed by a 3D printer, we’re showing you a program where you can download a project and print it off,” she explained.
Although projects often take quite a while to print, the cost of using the printer is modest.
The library is charging five cents per minute plus a $1 set-up fee per project.
The next set of orientation sessions will be held on Monday Feb. 1 and Thursday Feb. 4.
Both sessions begin at 6:30 p.m. and last approximately one hour.
The session is free to attend but participants need to have a valid library card and children under the age of 13 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
To reserve a spot at an upcoming session contact the library at 705-360-2623.