3D Printing

3D Printers Are Here!
VBPL has MakerBot METHOD printers. Please note: Orientation is required for all customers before using the 3D printers. Email library@vbgov.com or call (757) 385-0150 to request an orientation.

Reserving a 3D Printer 

Once you have completed the new orientation (see above), you may reserve your time and location

Please note:  Reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance. Reservations are approved by staff and are not complete until you receive an email confirming reservation approval.

Please see the 3D Printing Guidelines and our Library Technology Policy for more information on acceptable use. 


Virginia Beach Public Library currently has MakerBot METHOD 3D printers for public use at the following library branches:

  • Bayside Area Library (1)
  • Kempsville Area Library (1)
  • Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library (2)
  • TCC/City Joint-Use Library (2)


What is 3D Printing?

MakerBot 3D printers are an example of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). Fused Deposition Modeling makes physical objects from three-dimensional digital models by melting and laying down many successive layers of a material. For more information, check out 3dhubs.com's online guide to 3D printing and knowledge base​ full of information and tips on 3D printing.

Why would I use a 3D printer?

3D printing is very useful for testing out inventions, whether it's a part, toy, vase, or anything else you may design. This is sometimes referred to as rapid prototyping. Others just have fun printing things found on the Internet (see below for more information). Trial and error is often a strategy used with 3D printing. The quality can be very good depending on the design and selected print settings. However, be prepared to apply finishing touches after a print job is complete.  The water-soluble PVA support filament will need to be dissolved. Sandpaper, pliers, tweezers, and nail files can also help to remove support materials and to smooth the surface of the object.

What material is used?

All printing is done with PLA (Polylactic Acid), a bioplastic made of corn. It is a great material for printing a wide range of things. However, it has its limitations. It is fairly strong, but it will shatter if enough force is applied. Therefore, it is not suitable for making weight-bearing parts or parts that need to withstand a great amount of pressure or impact.  METHOD printers also have a second extruder for support filament.  PVA (PolyVinyl Alcohol) is a synthetic polymer filament formed by polymerizing vinyl acetate, which is then hydrolyzed to create PVA filament for 3D printing. PVA is soluble in water, making it a great choice for a support material. The PVA will slowly dissolve in any water, but you can speed up the process by putting it in warm water, using an agitator/stirring, or letting it soak for a while then picking the support filament off with pliers. (Note: MakerBot does not recommend water temperatures above 35° C [95° F] due to higher possibly of warping model.) For more information, including a video, see this link from MakerBot. Because one extruder is specifically for dissolvable support material, these printers only print one color at a time. Colors and amounts of available filament are not guaranteed.

How much does it cost?

3D printing is currently free at Virginia Beach Public Library.

Do I need a VBPL library account?

Yes, you must have a full-service library account in good standing to reserve and use the 3D printer. Customers with Internet Only library accounts are not eligible for 3D printer use. 

Do I need training before I can use the printer?

Yes, a one-hour orientation is required. Any person with a verified VBPL library account in good standing, excluding Internet Only library accounts, is eligible to request an orientation. Customers 12 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.​

How do I sign up for an orientation?

Email library@vbgov.com or call to request an orientation.  We will take your information and general availability and will contact you within 2-5 business days to confirm your orientation date and time.

How do I request time on the equipment?

After you have attended an orientation, you may reserve the 3D printers through Library Market at http://vbpl.librarymarket.com .

Where can I find objects to print?

Thingiverse.com has huge collections of things to print. This is a great place to explore what other people have created or to get inspiration for inventing your own objects. Most designs on this website are Creative Commons licensed and are free to download and print. Alternatively, Autodesk's Tinkercad.com is a basic, free web-based computer-aided design (CAD) platform for creating your own designs for 3D printers. SOLIDWORKS' Onshape.com is a more advanced web-based CAD platform.

Is there a limit to how long I can print?

We only schedule during the Library's open hours. Print jobs need to be complete 30 minutes prior to closing. No overnight printing is permitted. You do not need to stay for the duration of your print job, but you are expected to stay with the printer while it builds the raft. You are also expected to return the same day to remove your object from the printer once complete.  If your object will take more time than we can accommodate, you may want to consider using Shapeways or Sculpteo​, two fee-based​ online 3D printing services. Although not required, you may want to consider creating an account with MakerBot CloudPrint to preview your object at home and get an estimate of how much time your print will take prior to making a reservation.

​Terms of Use

Please print things that are appropriate for the Library environment and are either your own invention or are clearly marked for sharing with a Creative Commons license.  Virginia Beach Public Library reserves the right to refuse the printing of any content at any time at the discretion of Library staff.  Additionally, you may also see the 3D Printing Guidelines and our Library Technology Policy for more information.

Contact Information