SEARCH ENGINE: Public libraries in 3D

You ask… We answer

Q: I understand the Welland library has 3D printers and now St. Catharines has them. Are people actually using them and if so, what are they using them for?

A: From model car parts to invention prototypes, the 3D printers at Welland’s library are being used by individuals and businesses to make a variety of plastic items.

The pair of printers have been so popular since they were acquired a year ago, Welland Public Library CEO Ken Su said there’s currently a queue of 100 projects.

“Every month we print about 100 to 120 items,” Su said. “Depending on the size of the item, it takes 10, 12 hours to print. That’s why we just can’t keep up with it.”

Su said they’re dealing with the backlog by cutting back on the number of items an individual is allowed to make from three a week to one a week.

The printers make 3D plastic objects based on a design a user uploads online. Su said one person recently made an ice scraper for a car. Another made a hair catcher for the shower drain.

One model car enthusiast couldn’t find a piece he needed, so he made it with the 3D printer. A local shoe business used it for a prototype.

Welland’s library purchased its first 3D printer in December 2015 and a second in April after the strong community response. The machines cost about $1,600 each and work with a laptop and reels of coloured plastic that are about $30-40.

People can use the printers for free thanks to a donation of $3,000 by the Welland Lions Club and $1,500 by the Welland Kiwanis Club, Su said. He expects the printers will be free to use in 2017 as well.

Su said anyone can use the machines but they have to take a course on 3D printing at the library first to learn how they operate.

Niagara-on-the-Lake and Grimsby libraries also have 3D printers. In St. Catharines, the public library purchased two printers this year and rolled them out to the public in September.

Those printers are only available to use through educational programs right now, but the library’s plan is to make them available for general usage in 2017.

David Bott, manager of IT and Networks, said the library is currently writing policy for public usage to deal with issues such as copyright and patent infringement. They’re consulting with other libraries for best practices.

Bott said there will be a cost in St. Catharines based on weight, with a proposed $5 for the first 30 grams and 15 cents per gram after that.

It’s all part of libraries expanding their programming beyond bookshelves.

Su said the Welland Public Library has a VHS to DVD converter for people who want to convert their VHS tapes for preservation and a photo and slide scanner so people can burn old pictures onto a disc or email them.

“Libraries try to offer more of these kinds of programs to the public. For adults or seniors who are interested in these things, they can learn new stuff,” Su said. “For kids, if we can stir up their interest they may pursue that as their university major down the road. Kind of give them a little taste.”

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Q: Why are Niagara Falls house and building numbers all four digits?

A: The numbering goes back to 1970 when Willoughby, Crowland and Chippawa amalgamated with the City of Niagara Falls.

City GIS administrator Karen Canali said each of the townships had their own addressing system, so they had to go through a re-numbering exercise. Four thousand was added in front of all the numbers and a grid system was implemented. If your home was 311, for example, you’d become 4311.

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Q: Why is the arch over the new bridge in St. Catharines painted white? The colour dominates the beautiful aesthetics of the span.

A: White was chosen for the Burgoyne Bridge over Hwy. 406 because it’s a neutral colour.

Niagara Region senior project engineer Jason Marr said the architect came up with it because it’s aesthetically pleasing for the structure.

“We didn’t want to overpower the valley with any exotic colours,” he said. “The white is kind of a natural colour for the valley, so as to not take away from the valley itself.”

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Reader to Reader

“I remember when the cells were in city hall, for two reasons. (Re: Search Engine: Being jailed at city hall, Dec. 10, 2016) When I was real young, in the ’50s, my Mom dragged me in there one day when I was being a real nuisance. One of the officers on duty obliged her by giving me a quick tour and assuring me he’d be happy to house me there if I was going to continue to be a bad boy. Years later, my Dad took me there a couple times as he went to visit one of their regular guests, an old drunk everyone called Jocko. I’d stay in the little waiting room chatting with the desk officer while my Dad went back into the cells with a guard to get Jocko out and take him for a meal and a bath… Those cells were primarily used for overnights (drunk tank), for holding prisoners who were appearing in the court house next door and for temporary holds of people bound for places like Niagara Street.”

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Send your queries to Karena Walter by Email at kwalter@postmedia.com

or by Facebook at www.facebook.com/karenawalter 

Would you use a 3D printer?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

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Yes, if it was free

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Yes, if it wasn’t too expensive

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Yes, cost wouldn’t matter

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No, I have no reason to use it

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Don’t know

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