3D Printer Build Provides A Hands-On Experience at the La Porte County Public Library

By: Carly Kwiecien Last Updated: March 18, 2015

People of all ages were brought together at the La Porte County Public Library in a do-it-yourself event to create, learn and invent their own 3D printer.

3D printing, which is becoming more popular in library makerspace events and in medical technology all over the world, allows one to manufacture a three-dimensional product from a digital file. When put together properly, the printer may produce any object from filaments. 3D printing is a cost-effective alterative to make a model of something without having to hire someone to make a mold to replace a particular item. Instead, it has become more common, and by these makerspace events taking place nationwide, it is becoming a simpler task for people of all ages to do on their own.

At the library on Tuesday, students and parents, with the help of local engineers, created their own objects with the use of two 3D printers that are privately owned. Thingiverse.com and Youmagine.com are websites where anyone can upload their drawings or designs for others to use. People may also use a scanner to scan any item, have it process onto the computer and then print out a three dimensional object to hold. Students were also able to build their own 3D printer by following a step-by-step process.

Student-helper Spencer Shaffer has been putting together all of the pieces given to him to build a third 3D printer for the library. Part of his efforts include working on a bearing assembly, which is going to allow the 3D printer operate vertically and horizontally. Yesterday, he and other members of the community put together the circuit board, allowing the printer to move left and right, which is different from the other two models.

"I like seeing all of the different styles of 3D printing and learning about all of the different companies who do it. I am interested in engineering so it's great to feel like a mentor to kids and to be able to teach them different skills," Shaffer said.

Once the printer is assembled, they must calibrate it to keep it from crashing when producing objects.

None of this could be done without Earl Adams, a former biochemical engineer for IU Health La Porte Hospital.

"I got a degree in medical microbiology, and when I got out of college, I used to work on X-ray equipment, lab equipment and all sorts of electronics. I also used to work with electronic medical records, and I have always been interested in creating a makerspace event open to the public. By seeing the smiles on people's faces and the light bulbs go on in their heads, I can tell people are learning a lot from this," Adams said.

Makerspace events such as this one go hand in hand with STEAM learning (science, technology, engineering, arts, math.) Not only are they educational, but they can also benefit the community.

"It really fits in well with a lot of initiatives that are going on right now in schools and education. A lot of employers are also looking for people who have technical skills. It was something we wanted to do that we knew would engage people and educate them," Director at La Porte County Public Library Fonda Owens said.

The library has been hosting makerspace events since January. At the beginning of the year, they kicked off Tech Saturdays, which are still currently in session. Maker Saturdays are for students who are in third through fifth grade interested in being involved in STEAM projects. Registration is required, and one may register online or by calling 219-362-7128.

"Although we have a variety of different programs, we focus on computers and helping the youth expand their technical skills by giving them hands-on experiences," Owens said.

These learning programs are available at the library frequently, one of the next maker stations being held at the Main Branch on Saturday, April 4 from 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. Little Bits for Adults will teach about sound manipulation and the fundamentals behind it. By trying out a snap together synthesizer, the discoveries remain endless.