The Corinne Costin Gibson Memorial Library in Port St. Joe has a new high tech tool for public use.


The Corinne Costin Gibson Memorial Library in Port St. Joe has a new high tech tool for public use.

Through a grant, the Northwest Regional Library System (NRLS) was able to purchase three 3D printers for libraries in Port St. Joe, Liberty County and Bay County.

The printers allow users to input a design file into the machine which then heats the plastic and builds a 3D design through a layering system.

After receiving the printer, one of the requirements of the grant was to hold a STEM course using the printer.

Recently the library wrapped up its first-ever robot building class in which they used the new printer to make the chassis of the robot.

“It (the printer) brings new technology, new skills and a new way of sharing (to the library),” said Nancy Brockman, the Gulf County Coordinator for the NRLS.

At a workshop last week dealing with the printer, Brockman explained various programs that a person could use to utilize the printer.

One of those programs is a website called “Tinkercad.”

“Tinkercad” is a free site that allows a user to design an object with an easy-to-use computer-aided design program and then export that design in the form of a file that can be used with 3D printers.

Another resource Brockman discussed was “Thingiverse.”

“Thingiverse” is a website where 3D printer users can go to find already created designs.

Many of those designs are open-sourced and therefore free to the public to use for non-commercial uses.

“To me, it’s been amazing to learn about this digital community,” said Brockman.

While she is excited to have the new equipment available, Brockman is still trying to figure out the best way to utilize the equipment for public use.

The printer will take up valuable staff time during operation and questions to what it can be used for have been raised.

Brockman wants to keep the printer as an educational tool and not turn the valuable machine into a toy maker.

“We’re trying to find that balance,” said Brockman. “My goal for Gulf County is to create a venue where the community gathers to learn, discover, create, and share knowledge. Having a resource like the 3D printer helps us work towards this goal.”

Advanced 3D printing has many valuable uses with examples including automobile and aircraft manufacturing, medical uses and use in the construction industry.

Brockman brought in her own 3D printer dental model that her dentist used during a recent procedure.

While the device has large potential, Brockman said that she and the staff at the library are still learning; before adding that the library staff is ready to print files and instruct users how to print as well.

“We’re still learning and some parts worked better than other,” Brockman said. “If people want to get on and find files, then we will give it a go and learn together.”

Brockman added that the files must be in an STL. File format.

While the service is now free because of the funds remaining from the grant, when those funds expire a fee of 5 cents per gram of filament used will be charged for use.

That fee would cover the purchase of additional spools of biodegradable PLA filament used in the process.

Brockman also added that the library is looking to set aside two nights per week for printer use and encouraged potential users to use the library’s Book-a-Librarian program so that they can receive one-on-one instruction.