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UP CLOSE: Residents learn 3D printing at Keene Valley Library workshop

January 24, 2020
By ELIZABETH IZZO - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

KEENE VALLEY - Sue Young's eyes darted from one end of the screen to the next.

In the community room at the Keene Valley Library, the Jay artist perused through a collection of pre-made digital shapes in an online box. Using the Tinkercade interface, a web-based 3D modeling program, she dragged her desired shape onto a design for what would later become an adapter for a weaving spindle.

Young was among two students who attended a workshop on 3D printing at the Keene Valley Library on Thursday, Jan. 16. This workshop is now in its third iteration under David Craig, a longtime Keene resident, astronomy enthusiast and semi-retired electronic engineer with the MIT Lincoln Lab in Massachusetts.

Article Photos

David Craig teaches Sue Young 3D printing during a workshop Thursday, Jan. 16 at the Keene Valley Library.
(News photo —?Elizabeth Izzo)

Craig, though interested in technology for decades, only recently became familiar with 3D printing - a technology that dates back to the early 1980s but has surged in popularity in the last decade as printers become more affordable to everyday consumers. He first learned how to use the machine at a class hosted at the Keene Valley Library around a year ago.

"I took that, and I got to use the (printer) hands-on, and I decided I liked it and understood it pretty well," Craig said. "I thought there were improvements that I could make to the machine."

Craig altered the library's 3D printing machine by connecting it to a Raspberry Pi, a computer roughly the size of a credit card, and setting up the machine to work wirelessly. He also developed a workflow on the machine, making the process of using it more user-friendly.

For a while, he was the only one using the library's 3D printer, according to Craig.

"That's when (Keene Valley Library Association Director Karen Glass) asked me if I could teach other people to use it," he said. "So I said I would."

Craig hosted his first workshop last July, then another in September geared toward students.

"I'm not a teacher by trade; I'm an electrical engineer," he said. "But everybody seems interested in it. There is a learning curve, and not everybody follows through afterward. But now a few people are using the printer beside me, and that's the goal."


Creating tools

Young, the owner of the Young's Studio & Gallery in Jay, had her first encounter with 3D printing while working on a mural with Outside Art.

Outside Art, or the Plattsburgh Public Art Project, is a volunteer-run organization that works with local artists to create murals around downtown Plattsburgh.

Young was involved with the creation of the "Read and Grow! Dream Garden" mosaic, which depicts an intricate garden scene based on a book by local author Kate Messner. The mosaic, on the side of the Plattsburgh Public Library, was completed in 2017.

An automated "marble machine," designed to drop small balls to simulate rain, was initially part of that tile mural. Not long after the mosaic was unveiled, the original design for the system broke down - but not before volunteers 3D-printed thousands of those balls.

When Young spotted a blog post advertising Craig's workshop at the Keene Valley Library this month, she signed up.

"I thought, 'that may be really cool, and then I can understand it,'" she said.

She was surprised to open up the same Tinkercad program she'd used while building the mosaic in Plattsburgh to find that the technology had since evolved.

"This is so much improved over what it was three years ago," she said, moving her computer mouse in quick circles. "I did not even recognize it as the same thing."

Although the potential to use a 3D printer to create art is there, Young said so far she's only created tools to help her in her pottery business.

With guidance from Craig, Young recently designed a small stamp with her signature.

"It took like six minutes to print that," she said, pointing to her 15-millimeter stamp.

During the class last week, she finished off designing an adapter that would allow her to attach a spindle for weaving to her sewing machine, a deceptively simple tool created by a 3D printer that would improve her life by making something simple - like winding material for weaving - less labor-intensive.

The library hasn't scheduled another workshop with Craig yet, but he believes that another 3D printing class may be offered there sometime this summer.



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