3-D printing now within reach in Dubuque

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Gail Chavenelle simply thinks it, and it appears.

More accurately, she thinks it, designs it in a computer drafting program, uploads it to one of the 3-D printers recently acquired by Carnegie-Stout Public Library and waits 30 to 45 minutes as the machine applies layer upon layer of filament.

But after all that, it — in this case, a three-dimensional feather — appears.

"To see it actually build up and print something is amazing," she told the Telegraph Herald (http://bit.ly/1GR7gAH). "It's thrilling."

As the burgeoning technology gains traction in the scientific and artistic communities, the library soon will offer public access to 3-D printing. Library officials recently acquired four of the machines and are finalizing plans to make them available to patrons.

Three of the printers will be located within the library for public use. One will be loaned out to area nonprofit organizations as needed.

Library Director Susan Henricks said the machines will become part of the library's portable digital media lab, which also features iPads and laptops.

"The idea is to reach out to students, particularly those who do not have access to technology or the latest technology," Henricks said. "The idea behind this is to have them create content — anything from creating musical content, to editing videos, to programming (or) making prototypes of a design in 3-D printing. It's all about the creation of any kind of content."

The printers are "great starters" to serve as an introduction to the technology, Henricks said.

The devices can't print anything larger than 5-inches by 5-inches by 5-inches, and they cannot be disturbed once printing starts.

Library staff has experimented with printing several designs. Owl bookends and jewelry have been printed and put on display.

"Right now, we're trying to build a chess set," Henricks said.

Chavenelle, a local artist, said she was happy to be invited to help test out the printers.

She used 3-D printing for her work before, but she always had to send her designs to out-of-town shops. Her first local creation was a pair of earrings.

"This was the very first time I actually watched one of my designs being printed," she said.

The printers — each of which costs about $1,800 — were acquired through a grant. Library staffers are pursuing grants through the Dubuque Racing Association to purchase new filament, the raw material used to print 3-D designs.

Henricks said library officials are finalizing policies for public use. Users can utilize free software for designs and likely will be charged a fee based on the weight of printed objects to cover filament costs.

Mike Willis, president of the library's board of trustees, said policies likely will prohibit patrons from printing weapons or copyrighted material. He said the machines probably will not be revenue generators but will be a good service for patrons.

"I think this just brings another opportunity for people to get a firsthand experience of something that's made the headlines," he said.


Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Telegraph Herald

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