It was a dark and stormy night. @justinthelibrarian was giving me a ride home as my car had been totaled a couple days before on the winding and treacherous mountain road that leads to my apartment. We were both feeling frazzled by our 3D printer.
Sure, it was a lot of fun but as tends to happen with many library services it was becoming a novelty that folks wanted instant gratification from. If any of you have played with 3D printers by now you know they aren’t speed machines. An object the size of your fist can easily take 3-5 hours to produce depending on what kind of meat hooks you’ve got and the specifics you put into the printer. This was resulting in a lot of “Make me this” and “I’ll be back in a few days to pick it up” which meant we were essentially a two man queue of constant printing. And not just cute little things, ridiculous 8-16 hour jobs of things that were gimmicky test runs.
It’s total human nature to want to make the biggest, craziest thing you possibly can get away with when it comes to cool, free technology but we felt the point was being missed and it was a drain on our time and resources. In short, it was totally bumming us out. Something had to be done and on that short car ride the idea of the 3 D’s of 3D Printing was born.
What we wanted people to be taking away from using this machine was inspiration and a desire to learn more about design and how it can affect our society, not just trinkets. But trinkets are cool too and we didn’t want to take those away either!
Now we’ve worked out a way for our patrons to have one on one time with a librarian who will teach them step by step how to use the websites and programs available to start by reproducing and designing their own small and trinkety objects. In each step they graduate into thinking like designers and learning about the social impact these machines can have.
Justin’s written a great piece on the plan we’ve developed for kids to earn their first 3D Printing License here. It’s kind of like working through the belts in karate, this lowest level license is the White License. With this license you’re allowed to print one object per day that takes 1 hour or less to print and you can ask a librarian to change the color of the filament before the print begins. This allows kids to level up and earn those big prints they really want while learning what is and is not going to work. It creates order around the printer since each person can print one item per day and allows a greater number of patrons access to the printer at the same time. It has provided an incredible transformation and the parents love it!
We’re still tweaking the next 3 challenges kids will need to complete in order to earn their Yellow License but we had to share what we’ve worked out because chances are if we’re experiencing these growing pains with our 3D printer so are you and this might just be an option that works for you as well!
Tell me if this helps you out or if you have other road blocks you’ve encountered so far in the comments!
Oh, and I’ve finally found a new car now and am back on the road in case you were wondering. Viva la VW!