3D Printing at the Library

The Library offers our community access to new and emerging technologies such as 3D printers to inspire a new interest in design and help the community bring their creations to life. Our 3d Printing Services Policy establishes how and under what circumstances the public may use the Library’s 3D printers.

What is a 3D printer?

A 3D Printer is a machine that turns digital models into real objects by repeatedly and precisely layering small amounts of material. Our machines print using PLA, a type of plastic.

How does a 3D printer work?

You can think of a 3D Printer as a high-tech glue gun. A super-hot nozzle called an extruder melts strings of plastic filament the same way a glue gun melts sticks of glue, but a computer tells it how to move so that the melted plastic is layered into an object.

3D Printer Set Up Diagram

Where do I get 3D printer designs?

Our 3D Printers accept .STL designs. You can learn to create your own .STL design for free at tinkercad.com or download designs others have made at thingiverse.com.

I’ve picked a design, now how do I print it?

Yay! You can read our Terms of Service and submit a 3D printing request, but first, you need to think about print settings!


3D Printers allow you to adjust density and style of the internal structure of your object, called infill. Denser infills make for a stronger object, but they use more filament and take longer to print. This is important because the Library charges for filament used and limits print times to 5 hours.

3D Printer Infill diagram


If your object has parts that hang in space, you may need to turn on supports. Supports are computer-generated scaffolding that maintain the shape of your object and can be cut away after printing. Overhangs of more than 45 degrees usually need supports. This is important because the Library charges for all used filament, including wasted material from collapsed prints.

3D Printer Support Structure diagram


3D Printers make objects by layering small amounts of material. You can print a higher quality object by telling the printer to use a greater number of thinner layers, but this increases print time. This is important because the Library limits print times to 5 hours.

3D Printer Quality Diagram

Are there any rules about what I can print?

Yes! You should read the full version of our terms of service here before submitting anything to print, but here’s a quick summary:

  • You’ll need a valid library card to use the 3D Printer, and you’ll need to leave your name and contact information so we can let you know when your object is ready.
  • To cover the cost of filament, the library charges 25¢ per gram for 3D printing as calculated by the machine. You will be charged for filament used on collapsed prints. Please note we can only accept cash payments for your prints at this time.
  • Designs must be no larger than 6 inches in all dimensions and submitted in a 25 MB or smaller .STL file.
  • Prints must take less than five hours. If we have many requests, priority will be given to library staff and Brookline residents.
  • While we make every effort to print as soon as possible, please give us at least 48 hours (in terms of business days) to process your request. The Library makes no commitment to being able to produce print submissions in a specific timeframe.
  • Prints must be picked up within 2 weeks. You’ll still be charged for filament if we no longer have your object, so please mark your calendar!
  • The printers are in a public space so we can’t guarantee the privacy or confidentiality of print jobs, but we won’t tell anyone what you printed.
  • We won’t print objects that are hazardous or offensive. The Library reserves the right to refuse any job.

Congratulations!  You’re ready to print!

Email us at brkanswers@brooklinelibrary.libanswers.com to discuss your design or schedule a one-on-one appointment.

Submit a print job

Can I come and watch my design print?

We print our designs on the ground floor of the Brookline Village Library, right near the elevator. We can’t predict exactly when your design will be printed, so we may not be able to schedule a print when you’ll be available.  However, if you’d like to try to see at least part of your design being printed, let us know when you submit your print job and we will do our best to let you know when we will be printing your job.

How do I finish my project?

Our 3D printer only prints in one color at a time, but you can always paint your object with acrylic paint to add in details. For the best finish, sand the surface with sandpaper or a metal file, and prime it with a plastics compatible primer first. If your object will come in contact with food or water, we recommend applying a food-safe and water-proof finish to protect the paint and your food.

What if my job is too big or will take too long to print at the library?

All3DP has a list of recommended online 3d printing services that are best for larger or more sophisticated designs.

Here in Brookline, The Makery also offers a printing service, so contact them for more details on their capabilities.


What kind of printer do you have?

We have a Lulzbot Mini named Ada, after Ada Lovelace (our icon of Ada is taken from Sydney Padua’s delightful The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.) The Lulzbot Mini is a fused deposition modeling printer which works on an “additive” principle by printing material in layers.

Why It Is Important

Personal manufacturing is going to have increasingly profound social impacts, in ways that have yet to be anticipated. The Library wants to bring to Brookline the concepts of what 3D printing and personal manufacturing are all about, along with an understanding of the design skills needed to take full advantage of the creative opportunities that are arising. Brookline is a tremendously creative community, and the Library is excited to be able to offer access to another avenue for the expression of that creativity.

3D Printing HarryLimits on printing

The demand and interest in our 3D printer have been strong. Since prints can usually take several hours, use of the 3D printer is scheduled by the staff to ensure as many prints as possible for as many patrons will be printed promptly. While we make every effort to print as soon as possible, please ask for a time at least 48 hours in advance (in terms of business days). The Library makes no commitment to being able to produce print submissions in a specific timeframe and will choose the order in which jobs are printed to maximize efficiency and give as many people as possible a chance to obtain a print.