The challenge for 3D printing companies is to get their technique – which is often perceived as difficult and futuristic by many – to the masses. But how does one do such a thing? 3D printing giant MakerBot thinks the way to go is to put 3D printers in libraries and universities. These are the places innovators and great thinkers go to. Johan-Till Broer, Public Relations Manager of MakerBot estimates the number of libraries in the U.S. with 3D printers and scanners to be 500. In order to bring their technique to tomorrow’s thinkers, MakerBot is currently setting up its first large-scale MakerBot Innovation Centre at a U.S. university library. It will open doors tomorrow.
It will be located at UMass Amherst – the University of Massachusetts in Amherst – in its Digital Media Lab at the Du Bois Library. So what can those students over there expect from an ‘Innovation Centre’? Well, MakerBot’s project is quite comprehensive, as the company brings a long list of machines to the university’s library. A total of 50 3D printers, of which 35 MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D printers, 5 MakerBot Replicator Z18 3D printers, 5 MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental Desktop 3D printers and 5 MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D printers. And that is not just it, as the company also provides the library with a large supply of PLA filament and several 3D scanners.
In other words, it’s a highly expensive project. However, MakerBot’s goals are clear: bringing 3D printing to the masses. But why does the company invest in such an expensive Innovation Centre? Well, the idea is to attract students from many disciplines, such as science, engineering, architecture, and also business students. The university’s administration also hopes that collaboration between students from various disciplines will take place, so new innovative ideas will grow. There is even an environmental conservation faculty group that plans to start a Makerspace class. They want to use the Innovation Centre for projects regarding remote sensing, environmental monitoring and building control systems.
Nevertheless, MakerBot does not just want the 3D printers to be useful for students, but also for the local community. The Innovation Centre will be a 3D printing hub, and local businesses are invited to collaborate on projects and participate on, inter alia, workshops. By setting up such a 3D printing hub, MakerBot clearly tries to bring 3D printing to the entire community. Will this plan succeed? Time will tell, but the fact MakerBot puts so much effort and money into these projects is definitely noteworthy.
Image credits: Creative Tools.