McKee Library is in the process of moving away from being primarily a space that stores books, and transitioning into a place where patrons work on original content. In the 2013-14 academic year the library will open Makerspace, an area designed to help students and faculty learn about emerging technologies while they bring their own creations to life. The new creative space's main tool will be a 3D printer.
The library purchased the new Makerbot Replicator 2X printer at the end of the past year. It is capable of printing objects in two colors at once and layers as small as 0.1 millimeters. Since obtaining the printer the library has created a number of demo objects, including several that had to be assembled from numerous printed components.
"The great advantage of having a 3D printer on campus is that students will no longer have to leave Southern to use one," said Ron Miller, library systems administrator. "They can now gain skills on campus that will be important in the future as 3D printing takes off."
The cost to create a 3D object is based on the quantity of plastic used and the amount of time required to print. Depending on the size, quantity, density, complexity, and detail of the item being printed, it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 15 hours to construct an object.
Initially, the printer will only be available to faculty and students who have classwork that directly involves printing 3D objects and prototyping. However, as time permits it will be available for general faculty use as well.
"We have many things in our degree that we would love to use the printer for, especially in our embedded systems program," said Richard Halterman, dean of the School of Computing. "Students will now be able to design and create components for electronic hardware with ease, right here on campus."