U of R library buys 3D printer

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The John Archer Library adapts with the times

Tap in to the ‘Thingyverse’ and create your wildest dreams! / Brett Nielsen

Tap in to the ‘Thingyverse’ and create your wildest dreams! / Brett Nielsen

The University of Regina Archer library has purchased a $3000 3D printer. Gillian Nowlan, an Archer librarian, says it can “provide exciting opportunities for staff and students to encounter new technology.”

Libraries are historically known for promoting literacy, but now they are branching out into digital literacy. Ensuring students have access to new technology means they can obtain practical skills for the changing workplace.

“Technology is part of everyday life, and now there are tools like this that can help students out with their classes and projects,” said Nowlan.

The purchase of a 3D printer is an extension of the library’s current technology, which includes a fleet of iPads, which students can use to enhance their academic work.

“We are really hoping that professors and students come in and use the printer to build interesting models. At Dalhousie, the dentistry school has used the printers to make models of tooth problems,” said Nowlan.

The university is not the first to purchase a 3D printer. In fact, Nowlan notes that because other universities have purchased 3D printers, “they have a database called ‘Thingyverse’, with designs that the University of Regina can access.”

The groundwork for many projects has been covered and people can simply access these files and use the library page and request to print off these projects.

“Of course you can also build something from scratch using Google SketchUp.”

The 3D printer is currently in a pilot stage and has four design options: a bracelet, a chain, a cell phone stand, and a nut and bolt option. These options range from $0.50 to $2.00.

The price of printing is aimed at cost recovery.

“The 3D printer is not being operated to generate profit. The prices are aimed buying new materials and maintenance costs of the 3D printer.”

In just one week of the program’s pilot phase, 25 requests have been made to print off various objects. One of the more interesting projects that has been printed, according to Nowlan, is a heart created by interconnected gears.

Students at the university are responding very positively. Psychology student Melissa Pleau thinks the program “is really cool,” adding how the fact that any student can make use of the printer is a great idea. Nowlan also said that students are very fascinated by how the printer works.

Currently the program will only be open to the university community, but Nowlan stated that this is a point that had been discussed and could be implemented as long as “students had priority.” She also noted that the Regina Public Libraries were also looking to purchase their own printers.

For now, the printer is limited to the four preset options, but students can submit designs on the library page.

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