HARTFORD — Those visiting the Hartford Public Library will start seeing a new piece of equipment. 

The library received a grant from the Library of Michigan this month for a 3-D printer. 

“It takes a two-dimensional object and turns it into 3-D. For kids, and for STEM work, it’s intriguing,” Library Director Stephanie Daniels said. “I had kids in here yesterday just staring at it.”

Daniels said she has been working on getting a 3-D printer for the library for some time, and it finally came together with the grant, which covered the entire $1,500 cost. The only ongoing cost is the filament that is melted to make the 3-D objects.

“Everytime I’d go to the ALA (American Library Association) conferences in Chicago they’d always be there,” she said. “We always go to see what’s going on in the industry. They had a huge area for the Dremel 3-D printer and all kinds of robots.”

She said the library got the same grant last year, and it was used to buy building concept blocks for young children. 

“Anything to help the kids be creative,” Daniels said. 

So far the library has made a replica frog, a large die and chess pieces from pre-programmed designs in the printer. 

Daniels said the library staff is working on learning the software so they can make their own designs. 

The larger the object, the longer it takes to print, she said, but something small, like a chess piece, can be made in less than 20 minutes. 

The area in the library the 3-D printer is kept is called the Makers Space, which has become a big trend in public libraries, she said. 

“It’s a place where kids can come together and make things,” Daniels said. 

The library is holding drop-in crafts 1-3 p.m. Mondays during the summer, and the 3-D printer will be used as one of the options. 

“Libraries are a key part of the community,” Daniels said. “Especially in this particular community because there’s not a lot for children to do when school is out.”

In addition to giving kids something to do, Daniels said she hopes it sparks an early interest in science and engineering. 

“We’re in a low-income area, and these children don’t have accessibility to some of these things,” she said. “It’s to get them excited about science and STEM, and possible future careers for themselves.”

But Daniels said she wants to get adults interested in using the printer too. Eventually the library would like to offer online lessons for beginners and intermediate users. 

Daniels said she thinks Hartford is one of the first, if not the first, public library in Southwest Michigan to have it’s own 3-D printer. 

The Library of Michigan awarded 71 libraries the Public Library Services Grant at a combined total of $118,295. The applications were for a wide range of programs that were creative, according to the Library of Michigan website.  

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