Written by Stella Nicholls
You don’t normally think of 3D printers and laser cutters when you think of a library, in fact the first thing that comes to mind would probably be books. Whilst finding a good book, a digital magazine, audio or eBook is something that Exeter Library does provide in abundance, Libraries Unlimited offers so much more.
Becoming an independent charity last year and running 50 libraries across Devon, Libraries Unlimited is at the heart of innovation, offering the latest technology to people, businesses, and schools across Devon. As Exeter is the busiest of the libraries, staff are constantly trying out new things to meet the needs of their members.
The Library houses the FabLab and The Devon Business and Intellectual Property Centre, which offers workshops and events for start-ups and entrepreneurs looking for advice and support and are run by various organisations who offer their expertise for a nominal fee and sometimes free of charge. The centre also offers access to Cobra (Complete Online Business Information Resource) and Mintel – which provides a range of marketing reports; normally an expensive service, but available free to members.
The FabLab contains some of the latest technology; equipment which would generally be unavailable to the average person. It houses 3 state of the art 3D Printers which are often used for developing prototypes- an idea designed in the 3D programme is printed out in a plastic called PLA. From Architects making models of their plans to people with hobbies, DIY projects, engineers, in fact, people from all walks of life come into the FabLab to use the equipment. The laser cutter uses a variety of different materials from paper and card to fabric and plywood- one interesting innovation was the engraving and cutting of skateboards from Canadian wood by one of the members.
Fabric and textile designers make use of the sublimation printer to print their designs onto paper and then onto fabric; these are a few of the many pieces of equipment that can be booked and used by FabLab members. Membership includes an induction training session, where you will be guided through the different machines by experts in their field.
For more information about Libraries Unlimited, visit www.librariesunlimited.org.uk, or visit www.fablabdevon.org for more information about the FabLab.