SPARTA, NJ - Little red and blue plastic figures, resembling a children's toys, were handed out to each of the members of Town Council at its meeting on Tuesday night. Sparta Library Director Carol Boutilier and library Systems Administrator David Costa presented the items, including a hockey puck to Jerry Murphy and a monkey wrench to Interim Manager Steven Levinson, as they explained 3D printer and the Cricut die-cutting machine, the two newest additions to the Sparta Library.
As described on the library's website, the "3D printer uses melted plastic to produce physical objects designed on a computer. This technology has been used commercially for many years (ever hear of Invisalign braces?) and is rapidly becoming accessible and appealing to individuals." Costa indicated the cost of the printer was $3,000 and that several library patrons had talked about purchasing a 3D printer for their children for Christmas.
The 3D printer was first created in 1984 by Charles Hull as a way of constructing objects through a additive layering process. This differs from more common industrial processes such as machining, in which material is taken away to construct the desired object. There are far-reaching implications for this technology in business sectors as diverse as aerospace, biotechnology and fashion. As the price continues to come down, industry analysts predict it will be used increasingly in the home to construct commonly used household items, such as a toothbrush or replacement parts.
Councilman John Schon discussed the potential interest from businesses in the area. "In industry they could charge a mint to be able to make this," he said, holding up his miniature. Schon was enthusiastic in discussing the evolution of the industrial uses this technology and suggested promoting the availability of the 3D printer with various groups including the local Chamber of Commerce.
Sparta High School student volunteers were trained to use the machine and assisted at an evening event introducing the 3D printer to the community. Residents can use the machines after a 30-minute training session, completing some paperwork and then registering for time on the printer.
Boutilier and Costa also showed some samples made from the additional Ellison manual die-cutting machine and a Cricut electronic die-cutting machine and talked about the button maker that can be loaned out. The library also has a photographic light box that can be borrowed by Sparta library patrons. All are now available for library patrons' use under the MakerSpace section of the library.
Councilwomen Christine Quinn and Molly Whilesmith both praised the two for their work and dedication at the Sparta Library in continuing to seek ways to make the library the award winning "jewel of the community."