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Believe it or not, we are currently living in the future. Inventions that used to be the stuff of science fiction are becoming more and more commonplace: things like self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, and space travel. Sure, we may not exactly be living in The Jetsons quite yet, but some of the most cutting-edge technology in the world is right at our fingertips, and not just for scientists and billionaires. In fact, you can access some of this technology right here at the Harris County Public Library, including 3D printing!

What is 3D printing?

Like normal printing, 3D printing involves making something on a computer and then outputting it into the physical world. But instead of putting ink onto paper like traditional printers, 3D printers make physical objects. It’s a little like the Replicator from Star Trek, but instead of making a perfect copy of something from scratch, most 3D printers use a plastic filament material that is melted and then shaped to make your design.

What can you make with a 3D printer?

Short answer: anything! People have used 3D printers to make all sorts of stuff, from miniature figurines for Dungeons & Dragons to prosthetic limbs. While we wouldn’t recommend that you print a life-size model of the Millennium Falcon, the main limit on what you can use 3D printers for is your own imagination. Not sure if what you want to make can be 3D printed? Reach out to one of our Maker experts here at the library!

How do you 3D print something?

The actual process of 3D printing involves either finding an existing design that you would like to print, or building your own in specialized 3D printing software. You don’t have to get these skills all on your own, though. To use HCPL’s 3D printers you need to take an orientation class first to get you up to speed on our equipment and get you ready to start making. Once you’ve gotten the completion badge from your orientation, you can start reserving library 3D printers and other Maker equipment to use on your own projects.

3D printing is just the beginning of the amazing technology that HCPL has to offer. Our Maker Central locations also have equipment like laser cutters, heat presses, and CNC mills, all of which you can learn to use and reserve to make the projects of your dreams. Want to get started with making? Be sure to check out the list of HCPL locations with Maker labs to get started!

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