Library adds 3D printer for Whitman County residents

Patrons will be charged 10 cents per gram of plastic filament, $1 service fee



Two seniors examine the MakerBot Replicator+ at the Colfax library branch. “I felt like the older people were really intrigued with it,” Director Kristie Kirkpatrick said.

ANGELICA RELENTE, Evergreen editor-in-chief

A new machine that creates 3D-printed objects is now open for community members at the Whitman County Library branch in Colfax.

James Morasch, Whitman County Library systems administrator, said they implemented the MakerBot Replicator+ 3D printer in July of this year.

“We’re not aware of any place that offers those services anywhere in the county,” Morasch said.

The machine is only available in the Colfax branch, but Morasch said he will visit other branches in the county for print requests during the first two weeks of November. He has conducted three classes so far in the Colfax branch and had one print request for an object used in the Star Wars movies.

“We’ve had some interest here in Colfax and hopefully interest in [other] branches too,” Morasch said.

The machine is exclusive for Whitman County district residents and is open for patrons of all ages, he said. People can email the files they want printed or place them on a USB drive. The library charges 10 cents for a gram of printer filament and an additional $1 for the job.

Morasch said the machine is similar to a hot glue gun.

“When you put pressure on the glue, it [comes] out a hot nozzle,” he said. “This does the same exact thing, in a very, very small stream, but instead of glue it’s plastic.”

Morasch said the plastic emerges at about 200 degrees Celsius or 392 degrees Fahrenheit, and traces itself one layer after another. The stream is small which allows the plastic to cool quickly and create a solid object instantly. He said people can also scale the durability of the object depending on their needs.

Teen Services Librarian Nichole Kopp said they purchased the same printer model used in Jennings Elementary School and Colfax Junior-Senior High School.

The library allows another option for students if they want to work on their projects and homework outside of school, she said.

“Our thought process was that we could do some piggybacking on the program that they’re doing with their curriculum pieces that tie into 3D printing,” Kopp said.

Director Kristie Kirkpatrick said there is a “digital divide” within communities in small towns and rural areas compared to those in larger cities, so they implemented the machine in hopes of bridging that gap.

Kirkpatrick also said job requirements are likely to change over time and people will need to perform tasks related to 3D printing.

“We just [want] to have our kids ready to enter the workforce [and have] adults ready to stay in it,” Kirkpatrick said.

She said the library introduced the machine to the public on Oct. 4 and people of all ages had the chance to watch it print samples.

“I felt like the older people were really intrigued with it,” Kirkpatrick said.

Morasch said libraries are an equalizing factor in society because of the services they offer, such as internet access to people who cannot afford it. The 3D printer machine adds onto that list of services.

“We’re offering the 3D-printing services [because] it’s just not something a lot of people would choose to invest in and so the library is filling that role,” he said.

Morasch said the library also plans to implement a virtual reality program in the future. He said virtual reality will impact the way people learn, so the library hopes to acquire that program as early as possible.

“I’m old enough to remember when the internet didn’t exist and witnessed it come to the university when I was in school,” he said. “It’s a tool that affected our daily lives.”