RENO — The DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library at the University of Nevada, Reno is the first academic library in the United States to make the leap to offer 3-D printing and scanning as a library service to all students, enabling students in a multitude of disciplines to make plastic 3-D models from a computer drawing for their research and studies.
“We’ve brought the technology out of the lab and into access for all students,” said Tod Colegrove, director of the DeLaMare library. “It’s a first for universities around the country where the machines are typically part of a specialized program or research lab.”
Using specialized software, the machine can build a three-dimensional, real world plastic model from a computerized drawing of an object. It can be as simple as a box or as complex as a protein chain from a theoretical model. The model can be inspected, modifications can be made in the drawing and another prototype printed.
“3-D printers are typically purchased by a faculty member with grant funds in support of a particular research project, and installed in isolated departmental locations,” Colegrove said. “Printers remain largely inaccessible to students and faculty outside of a select few. We’ve changed that.”
“In the arts, sciences and engineering, breakthroughs in learning or research often require going beyond pencil and paper,” he said. “With technology and a supportive environment, it becomes possible to breathe life into ideas – in the library. We have a waiting list for projects, which can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 40 hours, depending on the complexity.
University students are using the 3-D printing service to “print” custom parts for student-designed robots and hovercraft, fine art sculpture, chemical models, lattice structures, a moving parts engine block and more. The potential for prototyping models and experimental apparatus in support of ongoing research has become a reality for many students who lacked access or the funds to send the project out to a commercial 3-D print company.
“This service leverages library access with an incredible new opportunity for student engagement,” Colegrove said.