Library Deployment

How to deploy a 3D printer in your library


Security is simple: Always keep your 3D printer behind the desk or out of reach. Lock it down by wrapping a cable lock around one of the main metal posts (most have this easily accessible but you might have to get creative). Make sure you do not block the movement of the print head or plate. If you want to leave your printer out in the open, make sure you get one that is enclosed (and put a basic lock on the enclosure) , or make your own.


Here are the most frequently asked questions:

• How do we charge our patrons?

• What kind of maintenance costs should we expect?

• Where do we buy our replacement filament?

How do we charge our patrons?

Standard, High quality rolls of filament come in 1 KG (2.2 LB) rolls. You will need to decide on a price per gram/ounce/pound or whatever measurement of weight you want. Make sure to include the cost of filament, supporting technology or devices (think CAD software and computer), cost of the device, cost of training and maintenance/future upgrades.

For example, if a roll of filament was $50 for 1KG and your library decided to price the item per gram, the cost would be .05 cents per gram. If you add in the $2000 cost of the machine, a $1000 computer with free CAD software on it, 3D printer upgrades for $300, replacement parts at $75, then you have an additional cost of $3375 to attempt to return over the life of the machine (3-5 years). Assume you use somewhere in the range of a spool every 2 months over 5 years and that is 30 spools in 5 years (modify for your use rate). Divide that $3375 across 30 spools to get and additional cost of $115 per spool. So each spool would have a “cost” of $165 or .165 per gram. To simplify I would charge somewhere between .15 and .20 cents per gram. Using your cost, weigh the print when it is finished and charge appropriately. To get an idea of the cost most printer interfaces have a version of “print preview” that tell you roughly how much filament will be used and how long the print will take.

What kind of maintenance costs should we expect?

As discussed in the above paragraph, you will see something in the range of $375 in maintenance and upgrades over the life of the machine. Keep in mind the printer is only upgradeable to a point. Eventually, if you want higher quality prints, you will have to replace the entire machine (probably 3-7 years from now).

Where do we buy our replacement filament?

Anywhere that works for you. 3D Printer manufacturers tend to sell their own filament and have tested it thoroughly for compatible, high quality prints with their hardware. As long as you know your filament size you can usually buy from anybody. I have seen prices as low as $20 per KG on eBay. You can also find very interesting filaments from 3rd party sites (glow in the dark, fluorescent, wood based, etc). Remember that quality of filament varies, and if you are not using OEM filament do some research to make sure it will work well for you, and don't be surprised if you have a change in the reliability and quality of your prints - for better or worse.


Cura is one of the more common printing programs (also called a slicer). It works with a large number of printers including the Lulzbot series. Your slicer will allow you to move your models around and change the settings for printing. It will not allow you to model shapes (although sometimes you are able to make some small changes, like combining objects by placing them on top of each other. For example: adding a key loop to another object to make a keychain).

Many printers like the Makerbot and Afinia models have their own slicing software, but all can use any 3D modeling program for the design process.

There are tons of modeling programs out there, some free and some very expensive. Here are just a few:

Free: – 3d Tin is a free web-based 3d modeling program. This is one of the best starter programs out there. Allows users to stack 3d cubes to build things, much like using Legos or building blocks.



Things to remember:

-Level your build plate often and keep the printer itself on a level, stable surface

-Take apart your extruder on a schedule and clean it out (I don’t want to give a number of print hours for this because it varies on the quality of your filament and how clean the printing environment is).

-Lubricate all moving parts with high quality grease (preferably something synthetic and thick – think bearing or suspension bushing grease)

-Clean your build plate very well every few prints. (I use a razor and scape it like you would to remove paint from glass)

Best practice for prints

-Always use as little infill as possible (8 – 12% is usually enough). 2 or 3 shells or outer layers are also sufficient. Remember if you use extrusion-based printers (like a Makerbot) you will need supports for parts with aggressive overhangs.

-Regularly check that the filament is feeding properly and not binding on the spool

-Use a “print preview” function to get a rough idea for how long the print will take and how much material it will use (to calculate cost).

-If you can’t be on site to check on prints (overnight) use a webcam to check in on them and be ready to remotely log into the host computer and cancel the print if you see any issues.

-Make sure your printer isn’t in a drafty area. Circulating air can make plastic cool in an uneven manner which causes warping and weak prints.

-Use painters or masking tape to keep large prints from binding to the plate. Use a putty knife to remove stubborn prints without damaging the plate.

Questions to ask yourself/the patron before starting the print:

-Is this the best orientation for the model?

-Will this model stick properly to the build plate (you may need a “raft” or painters tape)

-Are there any overhangs/do I need supports?

-Can I reduce the infill?

-How long will this print take?

-If it is a long print, can it happen overnight and the patron return to pick it up?

Cool 3d printing ideas/tech:

Wood Filament

3d large scanner

3d small scanner

PLA recycler