Whether you call them FabLabs, MakeSpaces, or TechShops, these fabrication and creation zones are not new. MIT works with 3D printers in their Media Lab, and is developing printer heads that can extrude concrete and recycled milk jugs. The Thermo-Fluid Mechanics Research Centre at the University of Sussex sports a Z-Corp color printer for individual and corporate use. The University of Arizona and the University of Iowa offer the use of Dimension 3D Printers to their students, and Cornell uses the same to print models from their open-access Kinematic Models for Design Digital Library to aid in the understanding of mechanical motion. So what’s new about the Fayetteville FabLab? Accessibility. The Fayetteville Free Library in New York is a public library, and free.
The FFL FabLab aims to address the lack of accessibility to 3D printing created by cost barriers. While the prices of printers have never been lower, they’re still not to a point where everyone that wants one can afford one. Public libraries exist specifically to make knowledge available at no cost, or very little, to those that desire such. Beyond that, libraries serve as a space to share and collaborate. 3D printing is hands-on and there’s a lot to look at, so the steps required to manifest what’s in your head into solid form are best grasped with actual experience and from talking to others with their own experience. The FFL FabLab centers around a donated MakerBot Thing-o-Matic, and there are plans to have a CNC router and laser cutter.
The University of Nevada followed suit and is inviting the community, not just students or a specific department, to take advantage of their uPrint and 3DTouch printers by placing them in the DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library. The goal is to bring together the different schools of thought, to facilitate more diverse and creative solutions to the broadest spectrum of problems. Much of academia involves discussing successes and failures with peers, and sometimes someone from a different field of study has a perspective that no one in your own department has the benefit of. Libraries are great for mixing and combining ideas, and there’s hardly a better place for 3D printing.