Services and Facilities

3D Printer Demonstrations at Pratt Library

3D printing: Pratt Library's Makerbot Replicator and a printed bracelet, shark and robot


Questions and answers about 3D printing:

What is 3D Printing?

  • 3D printers use computer files of 3D models to create a physical object by building up layers of melted PLA plastic.

What is PLA plastic?

  • PLA is a soft plastic derived from renewable resources.
  • It melts at low temperatures and hardens quickly.
  • Some recyclable cups and plastic grocery bags are made of PLA.

What is 3D printing used for?

  • 3D printing makes it possible to create a customized object quickly and inexpensively. Some examples:
  • The medical industry uses 3D printing to make prosthetic limbs and to model complex surgical procedures.
  • Companies and entrepreneurs use it for product development and prototype modeling, testing and refining shapes before they're in production.
  • Designers use it for jewelry, fashion design, art, and interior design.
  • People use it to fix household objects, replace broken pieces, or create parts that are no longer available.
  • Schools and museums use it to produce and share copies of objects that are too small, fragile, or rare to be handled.

What type of files do 3D printers print, and what software can be used?

  • 3D  printers print computer files created by Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software programs.
  • Free CAD software:
    • Tinkercad and 123D Design: Two of the free products offered by AutoDesk, the makers of AutoCAD.
    • Sketchup Make: Offered by Trimble (formerly by Google), this product is integrated with Google Earth and a 3D Warehouse of objects.
  • These CAD software programs allow a file to be saved as an .STL file. (STL stands for Stereolithography.)
  • In turn an .STL file can be translated into a format which can be read by  the 3D printer.

Will Pratt Library print a 3D file I create?

  • Not at this time. We'll be demonstrating using existing files available from sources like Thingaverse and Shapeways.