|The 3D printer makes a little cat. You can just see its feet|
and tail on the screen near the bottom of the image.
|Jasper checks out a table of neato 3D printed objects.|
This 3D printer, like most commercial models, prints objects in only one solid color. However, objects made with ABS plastic are easy to paint. ABS plastic is most likely the material they will have available, but they will be testing to see if PLA plastic will work as well. PLA plastic is has different tactile and visual qualities, is more rigid than ABS, and is considered more earth-friendly. It is made from plants instead of petroleum (although some sources of PLA are apparently made from GMOs) and will biodegrade if composted by a commercial composter. There are also special 3D printers that can print in such materials as ceramic, metal and even chocolate, or in multiple colors of plastic for the same object. NASA is actually working with a private company to see if food can be printed on the International Space Station! Some companies that own fancy 3D printers will accept custom orders and will mail your object to you when completed.
If you'd like to try out the 3D printer, the first step would be to find or create something to print. The website Thingiverse has become a popular place for 3D printer enthusiasts to share copyright free designs, so you could simply find one you like there. If you'd rather create your own design, Tinkercad offers free online software and user-friendly tutorials. Hillsboro Library plans on eventually offering free CAD (computer aided design) classes to familiarize people with the process. They hope that this will be a first step in creating a community makerspace. How cool is that?
|Busy printing another kitty!|
Do most of us really need 3D printing? Heck no! But does it matter? I doubt it. Think about the many thousands of things we use nearly every day, that we just can't seem to live without, that we lived perfectly well without when we were growing up. I'm betting it's not just a passing fad, but that 3D printing is here to stay.