College & Research Libraries Section Report

The Latest in 3D Printing

Written by Emily MacKenzie & Paul Grewal

On November 20, 2014, the College and Research Libraries section hosted our fall event entitled “The Latest in 3D Printing”. Our presenters for the evening were François Lahey from Voxel Factory, a local 3D printing company, and Michael Groenendyk, business librarian from Concordia University Libraries.

François started the evening by giving us a brief overview of the history of 3D printing technology, which started over 30 years ago. He described the three main types of 3D printers: the SLA (stereolithography), which uses a liquid resin as the base material, the SLS (selective laser sintering), which uses a powder, and the FDM (fused deposition modeling) which uses a filament. Some issues surrounding 3D printing include environmental and health concerns, intellectual property (patents of the 3D printing technology itself, as well as copyright of works and the 3D models they are printed from), and finally the economic impacts that may arise from this now affordable technology.  

Michael continued the discussion by sharing with us his experience of implementing a makerspace at Dalhousie University, which included 3D printing and scanning services. He highlighted the main issues, including maintenance and troubleshooting the equipment, user expectations (especially in terms of quality, turnaround time and staff support). He introduced several pricing model examples, such as time vs weight-based pricing, and discussed the importance of user education. There are many surmountable challenges in encouraging uptake of the service by a wide range of users, many of whom may have an interest but lack the technical expertise to take advantage of the technology. Usage statistics gathered at Dalhousie revealed a heavy uptake by engineering, computer science, architecture, and the sciences in general, with a smaller adoption rate by Arts students. Michael also gave a demonstration of his most current project, which he is developing in collaboration with a Silicon Valley company:, a search engine which allows users to search for 3D models by shape, rather than traditional text searching.

Our evening ended with a demonstration of the 3D printer that François brought – a brand new Tinkerine DittoPro. He also brought many sample items that had been printed using the DittoPro, and participants at the event had the opportunity to see and touch projects made possible by 3D printing.

We wish to thank both Michael and François for their exceptional presentations, as well as the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, McGill University, for providing the venue for the event.



Photo by Paul Grewal