Makerspace. We’re Kinda Getting One.
To catch up from the last entry, the my library is safe for another year. There is no age of extinction for the library. We have a budget that will allow us to stay intact plus a few extra bells and whistles. In addition, I was able to get my transcripts from my school which I needed to keep my position. For the most part, the worst is behind me on both fronts and can look forward new adventures as a librarian.
During the Blue Ribbon Panel discussion, which the Mayor put together before making his new budget, there was talk about Makerspace. It’s not a new buzzword to me but for others, what the hell is a makerspace?
“Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn. In libraries they often have 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and tools, and more.”
Since creating a makerspace can be pretty much anything you want it to be, our library is gearing to get 3 3D printers. Back in July, I attended and presented at the SEFLIN conference and there was one was a Makerspace presentation from the Broward library system I had to attend. There I was both pleased and envious of what Broward had achieved with their makerspace. At the end, the presenters offered tour of their space and since my name was attached to the 3D printers, I had to jump quickly to get a sense of what we were getting ourselves into.
As we begin, we see this sign outside the area. The graphics are indeed eye catching and best of all, when you step off the elevator and head towards the entrance of the library, there is no way you can miss the space. Note the high tech design graphic is also repeated on the glass behind. The next pics carries that same design on the inside.
As you see, there are prints on the wall that carry the same theme. The monitor in the first picture has a sensor that allows you to manipulate the image in the screen. Not on the screen, our host was showing us a 3D spider and with a few hand gestures the spider could seen at every imaginable angle. This is one of the tools patrons can use when designing their 3D objects. The second picture is a simple waiting area for those to want to use the 3D printer.
This is their 3D printer. The MakerBot sign is also the printing platform. The thing above the platform is the real printer itself. The platform starts high and slowly goes to the bottom as the printer lays down a very thin layer of melted filament like the size of a human hair.
These are the different colored 3D filaments. Costs can run in the $20+ range.
As you see here in this picture, the filament is fed through this tube on top of the printer. The printers can have 2 of these tubes, have different colors but can only print one color at a time. The next series of pictures will be of the finished 3D products patrons created.
As you can see, there are some amazing 3D objects that were created. Again, all the colors are single colored objects. The slight exceptions are the Eiffel Tower, the Olympic Rings, and the linked chained in which, they started printing in one color, pause – changed to another color – print that section, pause again – change to another color – print that section and so forth. Our host mentioned that where are some higher end printers that can print using dual colors but don’t expect the colors to be blended. (We are only in the early stages of 3D printing)
Now, this picture is important to note. This model give you a print progress report but show how much time is left to print the object.
This is the same printer from above and it’s printing 16 chess pieces. At the end of 8+ hours, the pieces will be created and ready to use immediately.
In the background, you can see the other chess pieces already done. So, if chess has 64 pieces, printer does a batch of 16 pieces every 8+ hours, roughly in 35 hours, you will have you your own complete chess pieces. So, now that we’ve seen the wow factor of a 3D printer, where do we do go from here?
Towards the end of the tour, I was worried about how would we use this new printer? Outreach would greatly benefit from having a demonstration of a 3D printer. Take this puppy to a high school so we could wow the kids or maybe when we have another table at next year’s Florida Supercon we can engage those attendees in a very interactive way. I like this idea but honestly, the printing of these objects does take a long time unlike the replicators on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Our host had also mentioned that their printers run into issues when the printing goes over 50 hours straight.
This leads to the next question, we are not open 24 hours a day. These printers have to left on to finish the job. Just like sending a document to the printer, if you turn off the printer, there is no way of continuing where the printing was left off. Another point of consideration, who is going to be in charge of it? Granted my name was thrown in the ring but when happens on my day off or if I’m sick, on vacation or if I get transferred, our host made it clear that the 3D printing program should be self sufficient. Sure, once the printer has the object in it’s memory, the rest is just waiting… waiting for the object to get printed. Still we need a training program.
Which leads me to another question, are we going to just print stuff for patrons? The 3D printer does have great potential to have a real impact on our patrons. There was a situation our host had mention about 3D printing a thumb for one of their patrons. I forget the details on how it happened but the 3D prosthetic thumb gave this patron the full use of her hand rather for free rather than having to pay the cost of one. What else can we do?
Business start-ups and innovators looking to create prototype objects can use the library’s 3D printer rather than having to pay someone else for the cost and printing when they can do this themselves. Problem for us, we don’t have autocad on our public computers due to cost and demand. There are free programs like Sketchup but are we going to allow this on our computers? Unlikely but the plus side, 3D files can be put on to the thumb drive and then get put into the 3D printer itself. The host had mention there are wireless option to transmit the from the computer to the printer but if the wifi is down, there goes the transfer. What else?
Our host talked about a direct benefit for a patron and a service we can sell to businesses, what about schools? He talked about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had helped libraries with grants sustain and to have quality public access to computers for their patrons; the 3rd printer is just another level of computer access. Skills learned on this machine are used for personal, business and school needs. 3D printing needs to part of the digital literacy and the library must include this in our practices and need to educate the communities they serve. Yes, we can print up a pink TARDIS if you want but there are some real educational application we should look into. The MakerBot had this entry on a site called Thingiverse.
“With the intent of making the 3D printing ecosystem more accessible to educators, MakerBot Academy has selected Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics that align with our 3D printed content. Our goal is to lower the barrier to 3D printing in the classroom by directing teachers to standards-aligned resources. We hope to make the process of incorporating 3D printing technology into the curricula more seamless for teachers and students alike.”
There is no way we can take care of the needs of the public with just 3 printers right off the bat but rather, we should use treat these printers in a way to demonstrate the potential of 3D printing; a la Tech Mobile, outreach and partnerships. As we develop more interests, we can then start think about making a dedicate spaces for business and teens like they do in Broward but we need to learn how to crawl before we get to walk or run.