Makerspace Meets Medical Library, Maybe?

Makerspaces and 3D Printers in Libraries

The past little while, I’ve been tracking the emergence of makerspaces and hackerspaces in libraries. I’ve been particularly interested in libraries getting 3D printers and supporting their communities in introducing them to using and designing for 3d printing. Here is a great video introducing the concept.

Public Libraries, 3D Printing, FabLabs and Hackerspaces:

Did you catch that part where they said this technology will be as influential and profoundly altering of human history as the Gutenberg printing press? Here are my favorite quotes from the video.

“The idea is that our society itself is plastic, and that in a truly free society, in a true democracy, each of us will be able to creatively shape the world we live in.”

“To me, a nurse is also an artist. So is a doctor, or a teacher. And so is a student, or any young person responsible for his own development.”

“Public libraries have always been democracy engines. … They’re places where people learn to hack the social codes they live in.”

“This technology will turn the whole world into one giant public library.”

Here are some more links about these ideas generally as well as in education and public libraries, both pro and con, in case this has somehow slipped by you.

Is It Time to Rebuild & Retool Public Libraries and Make “TechShops”?
By Phillip Torrone (2011/03/10 @12:00pm):

Chris Anderson on the Maker Movement: ‘We’re Going to Get Sued’ (OCT 26 2012, 12:31 PM ET):

Join EFF’s Efforts to Keep 3D Printing Open (OCTOBER 24, 2012)

The future of higher education: reshaping universities through 3D printing (Oct 19th 2012 11:00AM):

MakerLibrarian: 3D Printing:

Did you notice the dates on those? Most of them are published in the past couple weeks. This is an idea that is exploding right now. But, well, I don’t work in a PUBLIC library, I work in a MEDICAL library. At first glance, some might think this is all about robots and making stuff at home and Star Trek wannabes. But is it really? Does this mean anything for us? After all, our library is renovating. Should this be something on our horizon, and yours?

3D Printers in Medicine & Healthcare

It turns out, not only is it relevant, but that a large portion of the energy driving new developments in 3d printing are bioprinters, rapid prototyping of medical devices, and rapid 3d modeling of medical imaging scans for surgery, and so forth. More terms for bioprinting include biofabrication, tissue engineering, tissue scaffolding, and specific techniques such as Dynamic Optical Projection Stereolithography (DOPsL). Here’s another video just to illustrate a potential use.

Rep Rap 3D Printing Blood Vessel Networks:

And again a few links showing recent news on this topic. I’m putting these in reverse chronological order, so you can see how the news has taken shape over the past few months. I was particularly intrigued by a mention I saw a couple months ago in an ACS green chemistry webinar about using this for local and personalized medicine to address drug shortages in underserved areas such as for rural and global healthcare challenges.

How 3D Printers Are Reshaping Medicine (Oct 11, 2012):

3D printing: The desktop drugstore (26 September 2012):

3D Printers Are Getting Better At Printing Blood Vessels (September 14, 2012):

10 ways 3D printing is changing the medical world (September 11, 2012):

3D Printed Meat Just Got Backing From PayPal Founder (August 16, 2012):

3D Printers Continue To Be The Most Amazing Invention Ever (July 3, 2012): (Note: not a very descriptive title, but worth reading)

Scientists Build Vascular Network Using Sugar and a 3-D Printer (July 02, 2012):

Printing a Medical Revolution (May 2012):

3D Printer Creates Jaw Implant, Turns 83-Year-Old Woman Into Awesome Cyborg (February 6, 2012):

What About Here? Ann Arbor & University of Michigan

Now that I think about it, all this fuss and folderol about the new ballot initiative here to build a new library connects to this issue. People opposing the initiative are, I think, stuck in the past, not imagining how the public library can be so essential in shaping their future. I look at the current library and really struggle to think of how on earth that space might be reshaped to include the types of makerspace / hackerspace / fablab etc. that is the subject of this post.

These sort of spaces are emerging around the area, both in the community and on campus. But most of them are not in spaces readily available to the general public on a drop in basis, and they don’t necessarily have the typical kind of library support where someone will sit down and teach you what you need to know to use this. You know, if I was unemployed and trying to reinvent myself, I’d not only want to have an inventor space in the community, but a place I could go learn more about the skills needed. If i was a student who was interested and wanted to learn more before deciding whether to take a course, apply for a job, or related activities, I’d also want a supportive introductory learning space. Maybe that’s just me. Hmmm.

So, what is in the area?

Ann Arbor

The big ones are All Hands Active, DigitalOps, and Maker Works. I could easily spend an entire blogpost on these two, so am just providing the links. Go explore. Join the Facebook groups or email lists, explore the wiki, check out their Flickr streams. Learn what goes on here.

All Hands Active:

All Hands Active in Ann Arbor is a Makerspace for All Ages (Video)


Maker-Works / MakerWorx:

Slashdot editor Jeff Boehm visted Maker Works in Ann Arbor, MI, where they not only have an Epilog Helix Laser Cutter & Engrave, but let him use it.

Not in Ann Arbor? Check here.

Hackerspaces: List:

University of Michigan

Do we have 3d printers available on campus? Why, sure! Here’s a picture I took of something made with the 3D printers in the 3D lab on North Campus.

3d Rainbow 8

UM 3D Lab:
3D Printer:

That’s not all. The Taubman College has a glorious FabLab, short for Fabrication Laboratory.

UM: Taubman College: FabLab:

Next question, I guess, is what’s going on in medical locally. Coming from Dentistry, I already knew that one of our most frequent questions there from the public would be who is it that is working on growing new bones or teeth? We were in the news for that fairly regularly. There is also work going on in our campus nanotech/nanomed communities and of course in Engineering.

Campus groups:

UM: Mechanical Engineering: Micro/Nano Engineering:

Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences:

Highlighted Researchers:

MNIMBS: Peter X. Ma:

David Kohn Lab: Current Research:


Here are a couple places that sell the printers and have examples of their use.

UPrint: Medical Device Prototyping:

3D Systems: Healthcare:

One of the things that excited me about the second company is that they sell low-end 3D printers for personal use.

And there are portable ones.

There are lots more.

The List of Personal 3D Printers, 2011:

You can’t discuss this and note mention the MakerBots.


MakerBot provided one of the earliest kits to make your own 3D printer. Now, of course, there are several sets of instructions around the web. Here are a couple.

Build a Laser 3D Printer – Stereolithography at Home

Steven Devijver. Building Your Own 3D Printer, An introduction.

The first video mentioned the Internet of Things, which you can track on Twitter with the hashtag #iot, and Thingiverse as a public collection of patterns for 3d objects you can download and print. Google provides SketchUp, a free tool for designing 3d objects with an optional pro version, and they also have a library of shared patterns. SketchUp is heavily used in education at all levels, and there is a community collections resources and teaching tips around this area.

Internet of Things:

Twitter: #IOT:


– Google:
– Trimble Pro version:
– Warehouse (Library of patterns):
– For Educators:

Want to explore the medical and life science literature in this area? There’s a lot.

Pubmed Search: (engineered OR engineering) (3d OR three-dimensional) (tissue OR tissues)
UMich affiliates
Non-UMich folk

8 responses to “Makerspace Meets Medical Library, Maybe?

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