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What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is a technology that makes it possible to create objects from a plastic strand or filament. First a design is created using computer software, and then this design is sent to the 3D printer. Instead of using paper, a 3D printer uses a strand of plastic. The plastic is heated until it melts, and then very small pieces of the plastic are deposited onto a printing bed. The printer keeps doing this until it builds the shape that the user has designed.


 12464584064_9d2ded9381_m 3D printing can be used for many different types of projects: art, games, robotics, engineering, and the list goes on. Some printers can create objects so intricate that, without 3D printing, they would be almost impossible to produce.

 Time-lapse Video of 3D Printing



Start 3D Printing at the Library!

National City Public Library has two 3D printers, a Lulzbot TAZ 6® and a Lulzbot Mini®. The library offers classes in how to design objects for 3D printing, and makes the printers available for public use at no charge.

Classes are offered when the Tech Lab is open. If you are interested in learning about 3D design and printing, you can email or come by during lab hours to speak with a staff member to schedule a time. Often times we can go through the class on the spot.  

If you would like to schedule time to print something, send an email as above but include in the subject line "print request." The Emerging Tech Lab is available for 3D printing projects Monday and Wednesday from 3-7. Walk-ins are welcome, though appointments are recommended.

3D Printing Policies

  • 3D printing is free at this time.
  • The library cannot guarantee model quality or stability, or confidentiality of designs.
  • You can have one item printed per day, up to 2 hours a day. For print jobs longer than 2 hours, the following guidelines apply:
    • Appointment is required (minimum 1 week notice would be ideal)
    • Staff will review the file to be printed to make sure that it can be completed within 4 hours
  • You must remain present for the duration of your printing. This is part of the learning experience - 3D printing is not a service the library offers, it is is an experience through which the library introduces new technology and encourages creativity.
  • Machines are available for use on a first come, first served basis. Computers in lab are for scanning and slicing 3D objects only. 3D printing equipment will primarily be operated by staff, though patrons may do so under supervision
  • For projects not designed at the library, patron must bring in a flash drive or SD card containing the .stl file(s) for objects to be printed. All files will be inspected and sliced by lab staff prior to printing.
  • The library reserves the rights to close down the lab at anytime for programs or maintenance with little or no notice.
  • The Library’s 3D printers may be used only for lawful purposes. The public will not be permitted to use the Library’s 3D printers to create material that is:
    • Prohibited by local, state or federal law.
    • Unsafe, harmful, dangerous or poses an immediate threat to the well-being of others. (Such use may violate the terms of use of the manufacturer.)
    • Obscene or otherwise inappropriate for the Library environment.
    • In violation of another’s intellectual property rights. For example, the printers will not be used to reproduce material that is subject to copyright, patent or trademark protection.
  • Please note that procedures governing the use of the Library’s 3D printers are subject to change.