Uyen, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into 3D printing in the first place?
I’m a trained librarian. I’ve worked in libraries my entire life. I first learned about 3d printing in 2013 when I heard that our library was getting two 3d printers. I didn’t know anything about 3d printer at the time, but always loved technologies so I offered to help. Next thing I know, I ended up running the makerspace at our library and managing all the printers in our lab.
So, from discovering a 3D Printer for the first time in 2013, you built the San Diego Public Library Innovation Lab, which now has a number of machines. Could you let us know what the Innovation Lab is and the equipment you have?
Our Innovation Lab is a library makerspace that is free and open to everyone to use. Its focus is on entrepreneurs, but anyone can use it. We have 3d printers, vinyl cutters, laser cutter, CNC milling machine, sewing machines, embroidery machine, and other tools.
How did it all start?
Our lab started in 2013 when we opened our brand new library. Our Director had gotten a grant from the California State Library for two 3d printers. The printers used to be on the 8th floor of the library, but within a year, we outgrew the space. I had to learn how to write grants in order to get additional space and equipment. In 2015, we received a grant and was able to officially move into our new space that’s four time its previous space.
What value does the Innovation Center bring to the library users?
The Innovation Center is open to everyone, whether you’re a frequent library user for not. We know that libraries are changing and how we get information is also changing so the goal of the Innovation Center is to provide library users with access to different types of information and create opportunities. It’s the place where anyone can come to learn about new technologies for free. It’s also a place for people to have access to the tools to make and create new products. More importantly, it’s also a place for the community to get together to learn and share new ideas with each other.
How challenging was it to manage this makerspace?
Like I said, it didn’t even know what 3d printers were when I first started. I really had to learn quickly and find the right people to help me make the lab into what it is today. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish it without the help of volunteers and support of our library administration.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
We’re opening another space similar to the Innovation Lab, but with more hours and tools. I’ll be training staff and be helping them get the space up and running. I think it’ll be so great and exciting for that community and so happy to see that this is where libraries are headed.
What was the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
I’m so proud of the boys who got involved in the project by going to our library. I think medicine and prosthetics are some of the best uses of 3d printing so far. 3d printed prosthetic hands from Enabling the Future are amazing because it’s very community driven and can have great impact! I love how our Lend a Hand club was able to connect young students to help an adult in need and how the story inspired other kids/Boy Scouts in San Diego to participate in the Hand Challenge.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you?
I’m interested in how 3d printing is going to change the medical industry, but I’m also interested in how it’s going to change the way we will manufacture and consume goods in the future. I can’t wait to see how students will be given to the power to create anything by combining their imagination with 3d printing.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
3d printing is still in its infancy and it’ll be a long way to go before we can see its full practical application. It’s interesting to see how some 3d printing manufactures have left the market because of competition, but it’s also interesting to see how there’s now a new wave of super cheap and niche market 3d printers popping up. I think for 3d printing industry to succeed, the companies producing 3d printers need to start investing in educating the public on how to create 3d models. People are catching on that there’s not much you can do with a 3d printer unless you have an idea and the ability to translate your idea into a 3d model. I
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
We can work with 3d printing manufacturers to create more “women friendly” printers.
Thank you for reading and for sharing!