Prince Rupert Public Library staff wanted to give Rupertites the chance to try the new technology themselves. (Keili Bartlett / The Northern View)

Bringing imagination to life with a 3D printer

Prince Rupert Public Library’s 3D printer is open to all after a free tutorial

Books, magazines… a 3D printer?

Technology isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a library, but the latest addition to the Prince Rupert Public Library cuts against the grain.

The staff checked in their 3D printer several months ago and taught themselves how to use the new technology, including learning about computer-assisted design. Now, anyone can take the free tutorial session held at the library.

“It gives you the opportunity to let your imagination create something real that hasn’t been done before, depending on how creative you are,” chief librarian Joe Zelwietro said.

The process and outcome can be simple or very complex, depending on what the user wants to create. Some pieces need custom digital files or external support to act as scaffolding, while other designs are available pre-made online.

“You don’t know it until you do it and it screws up. If you get your design online, someone else might have already done your learning for you,” Zelwietro said.

So far, people in Rupert have created whistles, toys and props for role-playing games with the library’s printer. Zelwietro said they acquired the machine for a number of reasons.

“On one hand, just the novelty of a new technology. Secondly, it allows people — especially people who like do-it-yourself — to create custom designed structures for their own enjoyment, that they may not be able to buy from the store.”

Although such printers have slowly gone down in price since they first hit the market, they are still quite pricey. Like much of the library’s resources, having a 3D printer on hand allows people to use technology that they would not ordinarily have access to, and it helps with computer literacy, Zelwietro said.

“Any type of literacy is always our priority,” said the long-time librarian.

READ MORE: 3D printer will use ‘bioink’ to create brain tissue

The demonstrations hosted by the Prince Rupert Public Library have gone well, with approximately 15 to 20 people attending. Before anyone can use the machine, they must have attend one of the tutorials. The equipment, Zelwietro said, is hands-on and the library doesn’t want anyone to get injured by the sometimes hot materials.

There’s no cost for the tutorial, and the library only asks for the cost of the supplies — at 25 cents per gram of filament — to be paid by the user. Depending on the size of the project, Zelwietro said it will likely add up to a dollar or two at the most.

Zelwietro said he hopes people will start to come in with their own project ideas.

“That they learn that they can create something from their own imagination, that they get interested in some types of technology and want to take it further.”

READ MORE: Heart of Our City — Andrea Wilmot is an open book

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After a free tutorial at the Prince Rupert Public Library, anyone is welcome to use the 3D printer. (Keili Bartlett / The Northern View)

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