Thursday, June 27, 2013
The appearance of 3D printers in university libraries opens many opportunities for advancing outreach, teaching, and research programs. The University of Alabama (UA) Libraries recently adopted 3D printing technology and maintains an open access 3D Printing Studio. The Studio consists of a 3D printer, multiple 3D design workstations, and other supporting equipment. Training of new Studio users (students, faculty, and staff) is a two-step process: an initial workshop followed by an individual training session. After the individual meeting(s), users may access equipment in the Studio independently. The 3D Printing Studio service is popular across campus. During early implementation, 50 users have attended training workshops. 3D users have experimented in the Studio with projects for advanced coursework and independent research. It is expected that the number of trained users will double in the near future. An evaluation of our management policies suggests that providing an open access environment and permitting users to experiment independently in the 3D Printing Studio contributes greatly to the success of the service. We also present ideas for future improvements to the 3D Studio service.