VALERIA BALZA/THE HOYA Lauinger Library’s Gelardin New Media Center bought a 3D printer last month and looks to buy another next semester.
VALERIA BALZA/THE HOYA
Lauinger Library’s Gelardin New Media Center bought a 3D printer last month and looks to buy another next semester.

Lauinger Library’s Gelardin New Media Center purchased a 3D printer earlier last month and has plans to purchase another one for next semester.

The MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation printers have the capacity to print objects up to 10” x 7.5” x 6” using PLA plastic filaments and cost $2,900 each.

According to Gelardin Department Head Beth Marhanka, the first printer was purchased with library-technology funds, while the second will be purchased through an Initiative for Technology-Enhanced Learning grant received by professor Robert Thomas.

Marhanka said that the 3D printers will further enhance student research and innovation while propelling Lauinger into the future.

“Libraries have always provided free and equitable access to tools and resources that facilitate the production of knowledge, from the parchment scrolls of centuries past to electronic resources like e-books, computer software, video cameras and now 3D printing,” Marhanka wrote in an email. “One of our missions as a library has always been to house and archive print resources, but now we also nurture creativity and discovery of emerging technologies through access to state-of-the-art tools.”

Currently, access to the printer is restricted to Gelardin staff members, who have been testing it with a variety of projects.

“After that first test file, we started printing objects we thought would be most interesting to Georgetown faculty, like a double helix DNA molecule, a replica of a cuneiform tablet and a chemical molecule,” Marhanka wrote.

Lauinger Library’s Coordinator of Communications, Outreach and Programming Jennifer Smith said that services will soon be open to students and faculty.

“We ran a survey maybe a month ago to figure out what people want to use a 3D printer for at the university, and we had a lot of responses from faculty, especially our science faculty, that there are projects that they could use it for — I think creating models of molecules and organs and different structures,” Smith said.

According to Smith, the printers can be used for class projects, as well as student requests in the spring. Gelardin staff has not yet created a pricing model, but printing currently costs $50 per spool.

“First, we will be working with faculty who have class uses for it, and then we are anticipating at some point in the spring semester that it will be opened up for other academic uses and people will be able to submit a request,” Smith said. “It will have probably a two-week turnaround to get those done, and they will be priced because it is expensive.”

In addition to providing printing services, Gelardin will also offer 3D printing classes.

“We are really excited to have the opportunity to do this, and it seems like a strange fit for the library, but libraries have always been about providing technology and resources that people can’t afford on their own, so we are super excited to see where it goes,” Smith said.

Peer institutions including the University of Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins University and Northwestern University have 3D printers in their libraries.

Nico Cuevas (MSB ’18) said he hopes to be able to make use of the 3D printer to further his research and academics.

“I hope I will eventually have access to the 3D printer to better understand the concepts I’m learning in class, especially in chemistry where we can possibly develop models for different atoms and molecules,” Cuevas said. “It would be great if students will be able to have some type of access to these printers even if it’s through a class. If I have any research ideas, I believe the 3D printer will allow me to advance those ideas.”

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