Nonfunctionality of the 3D printer

Librarians hope for a new model


Deniz Ercan-Fang

The 3D printer uses plastic to print an array of different objects

Sitting on a table in the Upper School library, the 3D printer is a technological enigma. Seldom in use, very few students are aware of how it works, and less actually use the machine. Christopher Sheffels ‘16 observes, “it’s certainly something useful to have if you want something printed and it’s certainly good that we have it available for learning, but it seems that more often than not, no one’s really using it and most of the things printed have been tests by the library staff.”

Currently, pieces like dinosaur heads and hats lie near the machine, interesting as concepts, but non-functional in a school environment.

When asked about the use of the 3D printer, Upper School Librarian Lizz Buchanan comments, “We’ve had people print things for class projects and also temples printed for Ancient Worlds.” Buchanan also adds, “ the more philosophical question and use of [the printer] is ‘Shouldn’t you all be exposed to technology and new ways to think?’ So maybe it’s a way for us to push students to think in new ways.”

Also, clubs like Robotics benefit from 3D printing technology, as Sheffels attests: “We actually have used the 3D printer for keeping the robot’s computer in place on the electronics board.”

In terms of the working status of the printer, Buchanan says, “We haven’t got it calibrated and up and running yet. It’s working, but it’s not working well. It’s a little out of date at this point and we probably need to upgrade if we want something that’s going to work better with the school.” The printer is a four year-old, second generation model and is not as reliable as current models on the market. The library staff has tried to fix the reliability issues, with Buchanan fashioning plexiglass panels attached to the sides of the printer in an attempt to retain heat.

Given the printer’s reliability issues, the school will most likely buy a completely new 3D printer with the possibility of it coming before the end of the school year.

“Basically, in order to get a new printer we need to make sure that the library budget can handle it before we’re able to go through with the purchase,” Buchanan says.