3-D Printing

​​​​​​​​​​3-D Printers at Virginia Beach Public Library

Virginia Beach Public Library currently has one MakerBot Fifth Generation 3-D printer for public use at both our Central Library and at our TCC/City of Virginia Beach Joint-Use Library.

What is 3-D Printing?

MakerBot 3-D printers are an example of Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).  Fused Filament Fabrication 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 3-D printing and knowledge base​ full of information and tips on 3-D printing.

Why would I use a 3-D printer?

3-D 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 3-D 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.  Sand paper, pliers, tweezers, and nail files often 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.  Our 3-D printer has one extruder, meaning it prints with one color. Colors and amounts of available filament are not guaranteed.

How much does it cost?

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

Do I need a VBPL library card?

Yes, you must have a full-service library card in good standing to reserve and use the 3-D printer. Customers with Internet Only library card accounts are not eligible for 3-D 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 card in good standing, excluding Internet Only library card accounts, is eligible to request an orientation. Teens and youth must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.​

How do I sign up for an orientation?

Contact Central Library at 385-0150, Joint-Use Library at 822-7800, or library@vbgov.com 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 contact Central Library at 385-0150, Joint-Use Library at 822-7800, or library@vbgov.com to reserve the equipment.  Please plan ahead. Same day requests are not guaranteed.

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 3-D printers. SOLIDWORKS' Onshape.com is a more advanced web-based CAD platform.

Is there a limit to how long I can print?

We currently schedule one customer per day to avoid potential scheduling conflicts.  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 3-D printing services. Although not required, you may want to consider downloading the free MakerBot Desktop software​ at home to preview your object 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.  You may also see the 3-D Printing Policy​ for more information.

Contact Information