You’re used to making copies in 2-D, on sheets of paper. But have you seen a 3-D printer yet?

University Libraries recently unveiled the first 3-D printer for UNCG’s entire campus community at an open house.

Brown Biggers conducted a short demo – as an example, he created a plastic cat. It would be 1-inch wide and a half-inch high. In 20 minutes, the MakerBot Replicator 2X would create the prototype from Bigger’s computer disk.

“It builds a layer. The build plate will drop a short distance. And it’ll build another layer,” said Biggers, the server administrator for UNCG Libraries.

The plastic taking form was white. Blue and gold plastic will be on hand in the coming months, and perhaps more variety in the future.

“It’s at 18 minutes – 94 percent,” Biggers said, reading the screen. The warm plastic feline form was missing only the uppermost part of the head and ears, as it took shape, layer by layer.

An object could be as large as 10 inches by 6 inches – but smaller sizes work better.

Biggers and Armondo Collins received the UNCG Libraries’ Innovation and Program Enrichment Funding Award for the project “DMC Makerspace.” The grant funded the purchase of the device.

The vision: expanding Jackson Libraries’ Digital Media Commons to be a place where students and the campus community make things. It’s a trend in university libraries, Biggers explained. The commons already offers multi-media support services. In the future, in addition to video presentations and audio recordings, students may come to the commons to make much more.

Beth Filar Williams, interim head of the Digital Media Commons, encourages faculty and staff to consider ways to incorporate it into their instruction and contact the commons to discuss ideas. There has been growing interest from a variety of departments already, she explained.

That ranges from archaeology, to produce artifact replicas for students to handle, and geography, to build 3-D city spaces or digital elevation models, to education, for creating manipulatives, and chemistry, to create 3-D models of molecules, to CARS, to create apparel and other retail items. “3-D visualization skills are an important and creative part of problem solving in this 21st century, linking the theory to real-world practice,” she said.

Biggers noted it is not the first 3-D printer at UNCG. The Art and Interior Architecture departments have made use of the technology.

For information and to sign up for use of the 3-D printer, visit http://uncg.libguides.com/makerspace.

Questions? Email efwilli3@uncg.edu or fbbigger@uncg.edu.

By Mike Harris

Photograph of Brown Biggers and the 3-D printer