What is 3D Printing?

Also known as rapid prototyping, 3D printing refers to technologies that construct physical objects from three-dimensional (3D) digital content such as computer aided design (CAD), computer aided tomography (CAT), and X-ray crystallography. A 3D printer builds a tangible model or prototype from the file, one layer at a time, using an inkjet-like process to spray a bonding agent onto a very thin layer of fixable powder. The bonding agent can be applied very accurately to build an object from the bottom up, layer by layer. The process even accommodates moving parts within the object. Using different powders and bonding agents, color can be applied, and prototype parts can be rendered in plastic, resin, or metal. This technology is commonly used in manufacturing to build prototypes of almost any object (scaled to fit the printer, of course) — models, plastic and metal parts, or any object that can be described in three dimensions.

INSTRUCTIONS: Enter your responses to the questions below. This is most easily done by moving your cursor to the end of the last item and pressing RETURN to create a new bullet point. Please include URLs whenever you can (full URLs will automatically be turned into hyperlinks; please type them out rather than using the linking tools in the toolbar).

Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - Larry Larry Feb 8, 2012

(1) How might this technology be relevant to academic and research libraries?

  • seems to be a core element of any maker space nowaday and maker spaces can be a interesting new offer from the library - andreas.kirstein andreas.kirstein Mar 31, 2015 Looks as if 3D printers are on the way to being as prevalent as photocopy machines are in libraries.- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Apr 7, 2015 I agree - there is a close connection to makerspaces, but they should be more than a place for 3D printers... - rudolf.mumenthaler rudolf.mumenthaler Apr 14, 2015 Agreed, 3-D printing is one of many tools made available in these spaces. - Marwin.Britto Marwin.Britto Apr 19, 2015
  • It is an example of how libraries are not just about access to information; they are sources for working on the whole access to creation continuum of output of research.- JoanLippincott JoanLippincott Apr 4, 2015 - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Apr 7, 2015

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Support burden. 3D printers are still very unsophisticated and require extensive hands-on maintenance. This has many implications: staffing, user expectations, brand choice, etc. We operate five printers (of three types) in our building, and spend a great deal of time keeping them performing well.- askeyd askeyd Apr 20, 2015
  • add your response here

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on academic and research libraries?

  • At present, some libraries are just jumping on the bandwagon of this trend without trying to analyze the connections to the academic program. In terms of connections to the academic program, engineering departments seem to make the most use currently and 3D printers may be located in the department or in a library. Situating 3D printers in the library makes them accessible to students in all disciplines and also gives them access to expertise. - JoanLippincott JoanLippincott Apr 4, 2015 - oren oren Apr 13, 2015
  • Among other things, they can be incorporated into the training-teaching-learning process as learners have a chance to produce models of what they are designing through their coursework.- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Apr 7, 2015
  • Policies, best practices and guidelines are (slowly) emerging to address effective and ethical use of these 3-D printers. - Marwin.Britto Marwin.Britto Apr 19, 2015

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

Please share information about related projects in our Horizon Project sharing form.