3D Printing Adventures with William Floyd


Originally published at LinkedIn Pulse.

Each year, the Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library celebrates the birthday of William Floyd (local hero & signer of the Declaration of Independence) with the school district that bears his name. Among the festivities planned would be a birthday cake baked by culinary students, essay readings and the display of student art. This year, however, the library’s 3D printing capability would add a new and exciting dimension to the celebration.

Several months ago, a gentleman walked into the library, up to the Reference Desk and nonchalantly placed a large plaster bust of William Floyd in front of Brad Shupe, our local history librarian. The gentleman was William Lauer, an artist and resident of the community. Rather hastily, he explained he wanted us to have it, offered his contact information and then left.

While William Floyd is locally famous, he doesn’t carry the name recognition of the Founding Fathers. As such, there simply isn’t a lot of items bearing his likeness, save for an odd portrait or two and, of course, Mr. Lauer’s bust! Reaching out to Mr. Lauer, we asked and received his permission to 3D scan the bust so we might create some tchotchkes for attendees of the celebration. Permission in hand, we began the process of digitizing the bust.

While the library was in possession of a 3D printer, we did not own a scanner. For that, I reached out to my colleague Chris DeCristofaro of the Sachem Public Library. Using a Next Engine 3D scanner, we spent the next several hours using successive scans to create a 3D rendering of Floyd. Chris then exported the file in STL format and emailed it to me.


I next ran a full-size test print of the file using a Taz 6 printer, followed by a scaled down version, both of which proved successful.


It was now time to turn the bust into a keychain! Using TinkerCAD, I imported the STL file. After some simple resizing, I added a loop to the top of Floyd’s head to serve as a key ring. While the preference would have been the bottom of the bust, this would have required the use of more support structures, which would have to be cleaned off–easy enough for one or two prints, but we were planning on 150!


From TinkerCAD, we once again exported our keychain version of the STL file and placed it in Cura, the software that runs our printer. In Cura, we established a final size and infill percentage (how solid the object is). By managing the workload across two printers and printing multiple keychains for each job, we were able to hit our target in time for the celebration.


Ultimately, this project highlights several of the strong suits of 3D printing/scanning:

  • The ability to digitize a 3-dimensional object–particularly one that is rare or unique. A lot of applicability for local history collections!
  • The ability to scan and modify an existing 3-dimensional object.
  • 3D printing’s ability to perform cost-effective small-scale manufacturing (a print run of 150).
  • The quick turnaround time from concept to creation.

Your Library’s Digital Collection & the Post-Holiday Bump

Originally published at LinkedIn Pulse

The holiday season is often considered a down time for libraries, as it can be difficult to compete for our patrons’ time and attention. Generally, we offer fewer programs and may experience a brief downturn in checkouts between Thanksgiving and New Year. Following this period, however is an ideal time to promote your library’s collection of eBooks, eMagazines, streaming movies and music.

New Toys = New Users

Tablets, computers, eReaders & smartphones are all expected to be popular gifts. Once a patron owns one of these gadgets, they become a potential user of your digital branch. With a few considerations, you can successfully convert a large percentage of potential users into actual ones.

Offer Introductory Device Classes

A patron that cannot use their mobile device cannot use your digital collection! Before you make any effort to promote your collection, ensure that you are offering patrons the opportunity to learn the basics of common mobile devices. Consider offering introductory classes on iPad, Android and Kindle Fire devices starting in the second half of January. Patrons attending these classes should be shown the basics; how to turn them on/off, connecting to WiFi, installing/deleting apps and using the web browser. All of these basic actions are the precursors to accessing your digital collection! Once the class has ended, you can hand out flyers advertising compatible collections, or engage in a short demonstration. If your library offers one-on-one appointments, you can also make them at this time if a patron wishes to know more.

Offer Live Demonstrations of Your Digital Collection

Not everyone is a tech newbie! For every patron who may have just gotten their first smartphone, there’s one who just upgraded to an iPad Air 2 from an earlier model. These patrons don’t need lessons on how to use their device–they need to know what the library has to offer them! Demonstrations, either scheduled or drop-in are an excellent way to showcase your digital branch. These can be formalized classes such as “Free eBooks on Your iPad,” “Streaming Library Movies,” or others appropriate to your collection. In the case of drop-in, set up an attractive display with posters and informational flyers. Utilize digital signage; a re-purposed monitor & slideshow, or something more formalized, like Overdrive’s Media Station. Have a mobile device or two with “dummy” accounts so patrons can see your collection in action. Ensure you have staff assigned to the display during peak hours and advertise this presence to your public.

By capitalizing on the post-holiday influx of mobile devices in your community, you can draw in large numbers of new users. By creating an atmosphere of excitement and effective tech support, you can assure these new users become permanent users!

For more information on running a successful digital branch, consider purchasing my book “Making the Most of Digital Collections Through Training and Outreach,” published by Libraries Unlimited.

Dungeons & Dragons & 3D Printers


Role-playing games (RPGs) such as Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder have long enjoyed legions of fans.  More recently, Netflix’s hit show “Stranger Things,” has also served to drum up interest, as Dungeons & Dragons serves as a major plot point. Some libraries have sought to capitalize on this interest by offering meetups/gaming sessions and by purchasing rule books. Even if your library doesn’t actively offer programs, you may have noticed a role playing group using your floor space or meeting rooms.

While some role playing groups simply utilize pencil and paper, many prefer to use miniatures to represent their characters and the various monsters/foes they encounter. Miniatures can be extremely pricey–some simply use paper stand-ins rather than shell out for costly pewter or plastic commercial options. For libraries in possession of a 3D printer, you have the potential to offer these patrons a dynamic service/program designing and printing tabletop miniatures.

Offer a Public Print Service:

Elf ranger schematic
Elf Ranger D&D miniature by MattDB

With 3D printer and a public print policy, you likely have an affordable alternative for those wishing to utilize tabletop miniatures. Existing schematics for game  pieces  abound at Thingiverse and other open-source 3D model repositories. In this scenario, you need only make these your gaming groups aware of the service. This could be as simple as a quick sales pitch when you see the group meeting. Alternatively, you could place a poster near where you house your games and/or rule books or go one step further and place a flyer inside them!

Offer Programs and Workshops:

While printing someone else’s model can provide value to the RPG crowd, teaching these patrons to design their own can be a truly rewarding experience! Every player has a unique character they’ve created in the game world. The crux of 3D printing is its ability to prototype inexpensively. Combine these two truths and you realize what a perfect partnership they form! Rather than rely on a stock file, which is effectively settling for something that looks like the character they’ve imagined, an original design allows for a far closer creative expression! Sensing this, some companies are offering custom 3D printed miniatures–at a significant cost.

TinkerCAD miniatures
Dungeon Delvers by Dutch Mogul. Designed in TinkerCAD

Free software that is up to the task abounds. At entry level, a course centered on TinkerCAD  can provide an effective tool for creating miniatures. If you or your patrons have access to an iPad or Android tablet, 123D Scultpt+ is excellent for creating characters and creatures. More confident designers can utilize Blender (Mac, Windows, Linux). When designing, plan on printing scaled to 25 or 28 mm, which is the standard size in most tabletop RPGs.

3-D printed and painted "female knight" by Stockto
3D printed and painted “female knight” by Stockto

Once these miniatures are printed, you can offer companion programs! Generally, the designs your patrons print will come in a single color. Offering follow up workshops on painting and accessorizing these miniatures can continue to draw crowds. Beyond character design, a more narrow focus on printing and assembling terrain are natural progressions. Finally, the library can take advantage of inexpensive print costs and open source models to include miniatures in library-owned box sets for public use. If pieces go missing (they will), simply print and replace!

Fans of tabletop RPGs are a natural audience for 3D printing programs and services. Libraries increasingly cite a desire to draw in “new adults” age 18-30–a core constituent of these games. With a little work and creativity, you have the potential to better serve current library users as well as draw in new ones!