Library Technology Reports (vol. 50, no. 5) "3-D Printers for Libraries" offers an explanation of the various types of 3-D printers, how they work, and the materials used. The Report describes a range of specific 3-D printing products appropriate for library use.
What Is 3-D Printing?
The Case for 3-D Printing in Libraries
Chapter 2--The Types of 3-D Printing
Fused Deposition Modeling Printing
Selective Laser Sintering
Laminated Object Manufacturing
Other 3-D Printing Types
Chapter 3--Types of Plastics
Chapter 4--Creating and Printing Files
Chapter 5--3-D Printers
SeeMeCNC Rostock Max and Orion
Old World Laboratories
Chapter 1 of Library Technology Reports (vol 50, no. 5) "3-D Printers for Libraries" explains the mechanical process of a 3-D printer. Author Jason Griffey raises a few library-specific issues and makes an argument for libraries to implement 3-D printing.
Over the last two to three years, there has been an explosion of interest in 3-D printing in libraries. This has been driven by the falling cost of the technology and the rise in interest in interactive, creative spaces inside libraries (makerspaces or tinkerlabs). 3-D printing as a technology isn't new; it's been available commercially for decades. But only in the last five years or so has the price for deposition printers, driven by dedicated hobbyists and the company MakerBot Industries, dropped to the point where they are within the reach of the average individual.
There are a number of reasons that libraries should be looking at 3-D printing as an addition to their technology services. The first is that libraries, especially public libraries, have often been a technological leveler for their communities. Libraries were the first place where many people came to print their resumes on a laser printer. (It's easy to forget how transformative high-quality printing was in the late 1980s.) They were also the first place where many people had an experience with the Internet, especially with the World Wide Web, in the mid-1990s. Going back to pre-computer technologies, the local public library was the place where someone could go and use a typewriter that was freely available. So libraries have a well-worn history of being places where new technologies can be seen and interacted with for the first time. 3-D printers are at the point now where the personal computer was in 1984; they are mostly a hobbyist pursuit, but they have a clear future.
That future is as varied as the objects these printers can create. There are a number of traditional mechanisms for creating things in plastic, ranging from machining and milling (subtractive manufacturing) to molding and vacuum forming. In most cases, these are optimized for creating a high volume of identical plastic parts, such as tens of thousands of action figures or hundreds of thousands of appliance parts. They are almost impossible to use cost-effectively if you want just one of something, and that's where 3-D printing shines. With a 3-D printer, you can create unlimited numbers of unique objects for the same price. Need a replacement part for a toy? No problem. And then when you need a doorstop or a speaker frame or something totally other, that's not a problem either. If you're making ten thousand copies of a thing, there are more cost-effective options. But if you need just one, there is no better option than printing it.
This flexibility is key to the uptake of the technology, especially in libraries. Each patron can design and create his or her own particular object. …