Lindsay Peyton
Musician Alan Sobel, left, attended the Delridge Branch library's 3D printing workshop on Labor Day weekend. The course was led by Matt Johnson, right, who said the technology is becoming more accessible and affordable. He hopes to inspire others to think of ways to use 3D printing. 

Weekend 3D printing workshop at Delridge Branch Library

Luring new members for September “Library Card Sign-Up Month”

By Lindsay Peyton

It wasn’t just a love of books that brought visitors to the Delridge Branch library on Labor Day weekend.

About a dozen people were there for an entirely different reason – a crash course in computer design software and an introduction to 3D printing.

A free two-day workshop, led by mechatronics engineer Matt Johnson, covered all the basics – and even an opportunity for participants to send off their models to be printed.

“One of the biggest barriers people have with 3D printing is coming up with something to make,” Johnson said. “It’s just a matter of getting people to exercise their brains a little differently and think about the objects around them.”

He explained that the technology itself has become more accessible, easier to use and less expensive.

Johnson started his workshop by teaching the basic concepts behind Rhino 5 software's 3D modeling tools.

“We chose that program, because it’s easy and you can learn it in not too much time,” he said.

Johnson sends participants home with an assignment – to look around at different design resources.

“I want them to get some inspiration for what they would want to make,” he said. “Then I sit down with each of them and let them know if their design is too ambitious. We get to a point where we make something that will work.”

Intentional 3D, a local 3D printing lab, will then produce objects based on the students’ models, which may be picked up at the local library branch.

“Everyone walks away with their own custom model,” Johnson said.

He added that sharing this technology with library patrons is an exciting endeavor.

“3D printing is revolutionizing how we do everything,” he said. “And now it’s so cheap. If you can use Microsoft Paint, then you can make 3D models. It’s just that easy.”

One student Richard Siegel learned about the class from his wife. “It got me to join the library,” he said. “This is something that’s easy enough that people regardless of age or technical skill can do it. Everyone here is from all different background. The tools have made it so easy.”

He was grateful that the library brought instructors directly to its patrons for this type of class.

“It’s fantastic to think about how libraries have transformed themselves,” Siegel said. “They’re giving people new opportunities. This is a way the library can help the community – and it reinvigorates the way people think about libraries.”

He expects free courses will attract more library memberships. “Libraries are becoming incubators for ideas, rather than just places to access resources,” he said.

Andra Addison, spokeswoman for the Seattle Public Library, said the 3D printing class was part of the September drive to sign more people up for membership cards.

“The library offers more than 10,000 free events for children and adults every year – and everyone is welcome,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize all the great resources we have to offer.”

She said the library system offers 800 public computers – and 750 Wi-Fi hotspots that members can check out just like a book to use at home.

“Libraries have really changed,” Addison said. “We’re trying to fill the gaps – in educational needs and recreational needs as well. We’re really here to bring people together.”

Another 3D printing workshop will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 and Sunday, Sept. 11 at the at the Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave. No registration is required to attend.

The following weekend, a 3D printing workshop will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 and Sunday, Sept. 18 at the Queen Anne Branch, 400 W. Garfield St. Registration is required.

There will also be a 3D printing workshop from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 25 at the Greenwood Branch, 8016 Greenwood Ave. N., 206-684-4086. Registration is required.

For more information about the workshops or other events and services offered by the Seattle Public Library, call 206-386-4636 or visit

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