3D printers make headway in the library


The Homer Babbidge Library made 3D printers available to students last spring on the first floor of the library in the 3D Printing Studio. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s libraries and the 3D Printing Club are working together to make the most of their 3D printers and build a “makerspace” for students.

Homer Babbidge Library made 3D printers available to students last spring on the first floor of the library in the 3D Printing Studio. Students have already made creative use of them.  

Library director of Information Technology Services Tony Molloy said one of his favorites was a “model prosthetic foot” being printed for a senior project this past spring.  As Molloy spoke, two Pokémon were printing.  

UConn’s 3D Printing Club helped to establish this and other projects in the 3D Printing Studio.  

“The library ended up hiring IT workers, two of which were officers of the 3D Printing Club…so because of them they were able to assemble all the 3D printing kits we had them order,” seventh-semester Digital Media and Design major and President of the UConn 3D Printing Club Lucian Chapar said.  

Molloy credited the club with the design of the space and the cameras that live-stream the printing.  

The 3D Printing Studio contains three printers presently: two Rostock Max v2s and an Ultimaker 2. These printers completed 80 jobs in their first semester of operation, Molloy said.

“Twenty percent were research or class based, and the rest were personal,” Molloy estimated.  

Members of the 3D Printing Club remain integral to the success of the 3D Printing Studio. Three members of the club currently work there, Chapar said.

“Students run the show,” library head of Communications and Engagement Jean Nelson said. “They know more about 3D printing than the staff.”

Not only is the 3D Printing Studio a place of work, but a hub for socializing.  

“The students who work [at the 3D Printing Studio] will come do homework and watch the printing,” Molloy said.  

Now that the 3D Printing Studio possesses a firm foundation, Nelson and Molloy are hoping to expand it into a larger space for inventiveness and originality.  

“The first part of our bigger plan is for people to come to the library and make and create things; we want to teach people how to in a makerspace,” Molloy said.  

The 3D Printing Club aims to offer workshops there in the future to construct this makerspace, Chapar said.  

“I’m really excited about the chance for this to be a community space and not just a service, and that’s exactly what [the library’s] trying to do as well,” Chapar said.  

Students run the show, they know more about 3D printing than the staff.
— Jean Nelson

Chapar said the makerspace will contribute to solidarity and collaboration amongst students.  

“I really hope the library will become this apolitical place on campus that everyone will be able to go, and it will bring unity to all these different groups that are trying to brand themselves the makers of UConn,” Chapar said.  

Chapar said the makerspace will also further the prestige and reputation of the university.  

“There are really big plans in store for this library, and I think it’s a really cool way to make UConn seem innovative, entrepreneurial and more twenty-first century,” Chapar said.   

Molloy and Chapar said they wanted to institute improvements here.  These advances involve upgraded printers, Molloy said.  

“We hope to have more robust, dependable printers by the end of the semester,” Molloy said.  “When the 3D Printing Studio is bustling, it prints 24/7.”

“Closer to the end of the semester, we want to make sure we can keep up,” Molloy said.  

Pieces of equipment other than printers might be purchased as well.

“They plan on getting a laser cutter for engraving and etching phones,” Chapar said.  

Greater student participation in the 3D Printing Studio will aid in the realization of its mission to become a makerspace, Molloy said.  

“We’re trying to make it as student-run as we can,” Molloy said.

Nelson said only slight obstacles impede the progress of this mission now.  

“The biggest challenge is people not understanding how to [3D print],” Nelson said. “We just hope people try things.”

Students interested in 3D printing can look at the library and 3D Printing Club websites.  

Alexandra Retter is a campus correspodent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.retter@uconn.edu.

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