Ask An Agent: Any 3-d Printer Program Ideas?

askanagent2You’ve got questions,  we’ve got answers! Our volunteer Agents are on the job! Here’s what they have to say this week….

Question: We are getting 3D printer for our library, which is very exciting except…well, I know nothing about 3D printers! I’ve googled around and seen lots of neat items I can print, but how an I use it to engage our teen patrons? I plan on playing with it and teaching myself some basics, but I would really love to get a program ready for teens later this year (we have to submit our programs 3 months in advance). Does anyone have a basic program plan for a 3D Printing 101 that they could share? Thanks!

Jake (Boone County Public Library) says:
I have very little experience with 3D printing. I think it’s very cool, but I can’t justify the cost of my library owning one (unless your funding is just so far ahead of mine that spending 1,000-2,000 won’t hurt your overall programming goals). If you do have a 3D printer and are wanting some insight, I would talk to your local hackerspace or makerspace. Many of them will be more than happy to give you guidance, or come out and run intro programs and events at your library. If you’re unsure whether there is one near you or not, you can consult this map. Even if you don’t have one very close you could always e-mail those spaces and ask for guidance, they’re usually pretty friendly and love to share the information that they have.

Kari (Virginia Beach Public Library) says:
Welcome to the exciting world of 3D printing! A great place to learn how to do basic CAD design is through the site  You can create an account and run through the tutorials which cover everything from how to the software works to actually creating an item.  I recommending do this well in advance of your program so that you have at least a moderate level of understanding to help your teens during the program.  Once I was familiar with the program, I created templates to use during my program, this was done due to time constraints for printing and some of the teens did not use them.  For the program itself, we had the teens sign in to Tinkercad using an account that had been created specifically for the program (this is so that you can access the files they have created while eliminating the account set up and file downloading steps) and run through the tutorials.  The teens each had different skill levels, many had experience using the program in school and flew through each tutorial.  Once they had completed the tutorials, we allowed them to customize one of the templates that we had created.  If they finished all of this, we challenged them to create something that could be used in the library.  Most of them created a bookend of some kind which turned out pretty awesome!  We had a few teens that decided to create their own object and we printed those after scaling them down to a reasonable size.

Evan (Arlington Heights Memorial Library) says:
I want to echo Kari’s above recommendation for Tinkercad. It’s free, easy to use, and comes with its own tutorials. I also advise having clear projects for teens to work towards, with enough room to personalize and experiment. Customizing pre-made templates, like Kari mentioned, is perfect. I’d also gently point you towards this article I wrote for TSU a couple of months back. Maybe you can find some ideas and inspiration there. Good luck! Be sure to check back in and let us know what worked and what didn’t.


Thanks to our volunteer agents for the awesome answers. If you have a question about anything teen services related ask it here! Your question will be featured on the blog with answers from our agent volunteers or TSU team members. If you’d liked to be a volunteer agent, please submit your info here.

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