The miracles of 3-D printing range from restaurant-caliber ravioli to human body parts. Ordinary consumers are increasingly gaining access to the technology at their local public libraries, where they can produce low-cost tools, toys or even shoes.
You’ll find libraries with printers in 35 states, in cities ranging in size from Denver and Washington, D.C., to Westport, Conn., and Glen Ellyn, Ill. Printing is typically free, but you may pay about $5 for materials (usually plastic). Libraries offer classes and online guides for people interested in designing their own objects. Or try free software, such as Tinkercad or 123D Design. If you want a professional design, you can find templates at Thingiverse.com.
Print household objects, from cell-phone cases to wall hooks, or homework helpers, such as a world map or DNA model. Or print your business logo on keychains. Avoid anything too large or complex because libraries place limits on the time it takes to print your object. If your library doesn’t have a 3-D printer, you can send designs to local services listed on 3DHubs.com and MakeXYZ.com, or visit one of 60 UPS stores with 3-D printers. A printer of your own costs about $200 for a basic model.