Fremont library gets 3-D printer for patrons
Within months, patrons of Mundelein's Fremont Public Library might be able to use a 3-D printer the library received as a gift last year.
Library Director Scott Davis said he's excited about the machine, which will let people make plastic objects using designs uploaded from computer files.
That could mean the production of chess pieces, jewelry, dollhouse furniture or countless other items.
"Part of the fun with this is waiting to see what (people) come up with," Davis said.
Libraries in Lake Zurich, Barrington, Algonquin and Highland Park are among the suburban facilities that offer 3-D printers for patron use.
"It's a new thing and everyone's trying to find out what can be done with it," Davis said.
Fremont's printer is a MakerBot Replicator Desktop model. It's about the size of a traditional computer printer and is portable, so it can be easily transported anywhere in the library on a push cart.
"We can bring it to wherever we want to use it," Davis said.
Simple objects can be printed on a tray in the middle of the machine in as little as 30 minutes. More complex items can take hours to become real.
"It prints from the bottom layer up, one little microlayer at a time," Davis said.
The Fremont Public Library Foundation, a nonprofit group, purchased the printer last fall for about $2,900. That includes the cost of plastic filament needed to print objects.
It's been tested but was never made available to the public.
That should change this summer, Davis said, in part because the library has hired two technologically inclined staffers who will serve as the "point people" for patrons wanting to use the machine.
Officials also are developing a usage policy. According to a preliminary draft of the policy, patrons would not be able to create objects that are:
• Prohibited by law.
• Unsafe or threatening.
• Obscene, sexually explicit or otherwise inappropriate for a library environment.
• In violation of copyright, patents or trademarks.
Additionally, library staffers would have the ability to review and approve any designs before printing. Printing would be free but limited to Fremont Public Library cardholders.
Although 3-D printers are fairly new technological tools, Davis believes they fit nicely with the public library mission. Libraries have always been places where people come to create things, he said, whether that's a kid-friendly craft or the garments a knitting club produces.
"We've been offering hands-on things as long as libraries have been around," Davis said. "This is just adding a technological element to it."
The Barrington Area Library has two 3-D printers in a public space dubbed the MakerLab. Customers have made toys, new parts for paper shredders and much more.
Young patrons especially enjoy the machines, library spokeswoman Karen McBride said.
"The kids come in and just blow us away," McBride said. "They totally get it. They embrace it. And they have fun with it."
Davis said he heard about a woman who used a suburban library's 3-D printer to produce a prototype of a spill-proof cup for adults whose hands shake. The woman now manufactures the cups professionally, he said.
"As people become more and more familiar with these devices, I think the uses will become infinite -- as infinite as their imaginations," Davis said.