According to this Google Map (see below), there are now over 800 3D printers in libraries across the world. This number could actually be significantly higher as the libraries present in Google Maps are mostly from the US or English-speaking countries such as the UK and Australia, while it is very likely that Chinese libraries alone could have three to five times as many.
Other geographic areas such as South America are also very likely to be offering 3D printing through libraries and European countries – which only recorded a few dozen in this map, are likely top have several hundreds – and even thousands – already.
The good news is that a similar map published on Google in 2013 reported only 58 3D printers in libraries worldwide, which indicates over 1000% expansion over the past four years. In 2015, according to, according to OITP Perspectives, a publication by the American Library Association (ALA) there were 250 3D printers in libraries in the US that offered 3D printing services to patrons. That number has now more than doubled to 584 according to the latest map.
Libraries are adding new 3D printers everyday, offering services that include professional FDM, low cost FFF and stereolithography with desktop systems.
“Our goal is to make this amazing technology available to our community,” said Mentor Public Library Executive Director Cheryl Kuonen. in a press release.” Mentor, Ohio, Public Library’s main branch just announced that it is giving patrons access to a 3D printer starting next September 5th. “You can use it to fabricate fun toys like rubberband cars and T-Rex skulls or replacement parts for your skateboards. But it’s also a tool to stretch your creativity. See what you can make. Its only limit is your creativity.”
This growth is not expected to slow down anytime soon, as more and more benefits of 3D printing in STEM and STEAM education programs become clear, while hardware prices decrease. Just a few days ago YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association), included 3D printing in its list of 2017 Top Ten Summer Learning Programs from its Teen Programming HQ contest.
The report, submitted by Pamela Jayne from the Boone County Public Library; Burlington, showed that the KY3D printer clubs are a great way to introduce teens to new technology and software, while also introducing problem-solving skills. Teens already proficient in this software can be great student leaders for these clubs.
Student leadership for the clubs were chosen based on their current skills in 3D printing and computer science. Once chosen, teens were brought together for a brainstorming session and created the outlines and design challenges for the club meetings. Student leaders were invited to run the programs themselves, based on the outlines created in the meeting.
The 3D printer clubs allow for teens to experiment with this technology. The first meeting allows for the teens to learn about 3D printing and what it’s being utilized for currently. Teens experiment within Tinkercad to get used to the software and how it works. In the following meetings, design challenges are introduced, which first help the teens gain confidence in using the software. Towards the end of the club meetings, design challenges are introduced to strengthen problem-solving and research skills, especially with the challenge of creating an invention that solves a real life problem. Time must be taken to research the field in which their invention will cover, and determine the market and pricing for their item.