J.D. Williams Library now offers 3D printing

Posted on Nov 2 2017 - 5:50pm by special contributor Paige Williams

In a corner office in the basement of the J.D. Williams Library sits a LulzBot Taz 6 3D printer. The 3D printing surface is no larger than a computer desktop measuring only 11 inches wide and 10 inches long. A single printhead hovering above the print bed creates all designs with the click of a button. Sean O’Hara, program coordinator, is in charge of moinitoring all designs as they are being created. He watches from his desk to ensure that the printer doesn’t malfunction while creating an object.

The library announced they will now offer 3D printing to faculty, staff and students.

The university plans on offering a creative engineering workshop and the 3D printer was the first piece of equipment purchased for it. For the first time ever, the general public has access to use the printer for a small fee. The cost of designs can range anywhere from $2-$30.

The library is testing out the printer to see how it is used and what people are using it for. Some of the first designs printed by students were a prototype for a scientific invention and the most recent thing was a piece of a student’s Halloween costume.

The library has also tested out printing a model of the Colosseum and a tablet stand. The printer can create 3D structures as large as a basketball and as small as a blood cell. Most objects printed from LulzBot 6 are a filament material, which is a blend of fiber and magnetic iron. The printer also has the ability to print wood and metal objects.

O’Hara said there is still a lot to learn about the 3D printer.

“My job is to make sure that items are printed correctly,” O’Hara said. “The printer creates structures by using layers, sometimes half will be good and the other half won’t exist according to the printer. The printer will also either print too much or stop halfway through.”

In order to prevent errors from occurring individuals interested in using the printer can schedule an appoint with O’Hara to ensure their design will print correctly. Individuals can submit a 3D design via email and after it was been reviewed they will be notified of the cost and estimated wait time.

The university does reserve the right to deny any individual of printing services if it violates printer policy. No objects that are a violation of the UM Creed, deemed illegal by state or federal law or considered a threat to safety are permitted.

On average the LulzBot Taz 6 3D printer cost up to $2,500 if an individual is interested in buying his or her own. However, the library only charges 14 cents per minute plus a 7 percent tax on all 3D printing jobs.

The LulzBot is able to print anything, freshman TyAnana Cox is excited to print a phone case.

“I would definitely consider using the printer,” Cox said. “I saw that you could print phone cases and that’d be pretty sweet because you can make it how you want it.”

Cox is a geological engineering major but said she doesn’t have any plans on using the printer for class.

“I probably won’t use the printer for any of my classes, but I think it’s cool we can use it to print anything we want for a small fee,” she said.

Other people such as ceramics professor and technician Andrew McIntyre said his beginning ceramics class would benefit from using the printer.

“We definitely could use the 3D printer, we would have a lot of use for it,” McIntyre said. “We could design stencils that we use to trace things in class. We could be printing off designs, forms, and even tools that we use.”

Depending on the object being printed it can take anywhere from an hour to 15 hours to complete a job. If an object isn’t picked up in 30 days it will become university property.

O’Hara said he encourages everyone to take advantage of the printer. The designs are not required to be anything serious or related to a class.

“You could even send in your favorite action figure or something,” O’Hara said. “I like to see what the designs are.”