Training on the 3D Printer

Watching the 3D printer work.

Today at the FFL, the Fab Lab Task Force (aka the Fabtastic 4) learned how to print on the Makerbot Thing-O-Matic. We started with something really small and easy, just learning the basic process of turning it on and sending a design to the printer. We all poked around on Thingiverse, a kind of public repository for 3D models intended for use with the Makerbot 3D printers. Somebody found this design and we all decided it would be fun to print the One Ring.

The process, as I understand it, is as follows:

  1. Connect the Makerbot to the Computer.
  2. Open the ReplicatorG program.
  3. Turn on the Makerbot.
  4. Calibrate it.
  5. Heat the extruder head and build platform.
  6. Open the model and press print.
This is the ring we printed today as practice.

Ta-da! The model prints in shiny plastic and you have a new Thing. You can watch and listen to it print the ring here. When it is printing, the music being made changes depending on the shape of the thing being printed; circles, lines, diagonals, squares, etc. Halfway through the ring print, I realized that all four of us were just staring at the Makerbot. Watching the Makerbot work is like watching snow fall or gazing at a roaring fire. It just pulls you in so you can’t help but stare at it dumbly. We were all guilty of that today (as is evidenced by the photo you see above).

Our next [pre] Fab Lab Open House will be on Saturday, February 18th from 12-2pm and will involve all kinds of making things. And I do mean ALL kinds. Sure, the 3D printer will be there, but so will the juicer, the PS3 Supercomputer, duct tape, and more.

FFL FabLab

While doing my internship, I was honored to shadow Lauren Smedley, the FFL’s Transliteracy Development Director, on the reference desk. If you remember, she taught me about transliteracy at the time and told me a little about a project she is working on called the FFL Fab Lab. This year, I’m honored to be working alongside the other members of the FFL Fab Lab Task Force to introduce the Fab Lab to the library staff and the community at large. On Monday, I’m going to be trained on how to use the software that talks to our 3D printer (a MakerBot) so that we can begin to train the rest of the librarians and begin offering a new service to patrons: check out a librarian for an hour and print a Thingiverse thing! (of course that’s just my name for it, not the official name).

FFL Fab Lab MakerBot printing a cat toy.

Today Pete, Director of Teen Services and fellow FFL Fab Lab Task Force member, was testing out the software on one of our COWs (Computers On Wheels, a nice set of laptops in a rolling cabinet) to see if they would communicate with the MakerBot properly. Thusly, Pete decided to print a cat toy. On the left you can see the MakerBot in action. Many patrons who were in the library at the time and walked past Pete’s desk stopped to chat about the 3D printer and looked very excited when they learned they’d have a chance to try it next month at our next pre-Fab Lab open house on February 18th. The actual physical space that will become the FFL Fab Lab is being renovated and will not be ready for use until probably next year. In the meantime, we’re setting up the community room as a makeshift Fab Lab where patrons can come in and Make. More details to come later….

Cat toy printed by the FFL Fab Lab MakerBot.

The MakerBot prints the 3D objects in one print, so the ball within a ball cat toy is printed with the inner ball affixed to the outer ball by a thin layer of plastic. When it was done printing, I was able to pop the inner ball free using a screwdriver because it was the only thing narrow and hard enough to reach inside and exert enough pressure.

Since I have cats, I was given the honor of bringing the cat toy home with me and letting my kitties test out the printed toy. Darcy was a little wary at first, but she usually prefers toys that are attached to strings. Lizzy on the other hand, had a field day with her new toy (hence the blurry photos).