Dec 7, 2017
For several years College Library at the University of Wisconsin - Madison had considered offering a 3D Printing service. It would be an expansion of printing services offered by the library’s computer lab, to go along with black and white, color, and large format printing. While we had seen 3D printing successfully implemented in various formats across other campus departments and other universities, none of those formats quite fit the style of service we envisioned for our environment.
We preferred to offer 3D printing like we offered large format printing: Any university affiliated patron would come to College Library with the file they need printed, place the file in a specific shared drive (so our staff could store and access it), create an order in a one-on-one consultation with one of our student employees, and return once we had completed printing the file.
Since we use a pool of up to 30 student workers to staff our computer lab, we needed 3D printing hardware that had a low learning curve and would be easy for our staff to troubleshoot if issues arose. After a bit of research we decided to purchase an Ultimaker 2, and it did not disappoint. The printer came assembled and ready to use, and it took no time at all to complete our very first 3D print job. It turned out that planning the intricacies of how our service would run proved to be a lot more of an obstacle than initially learning to use the Ultimaker 2.
With the support of the Ultimaker technology, we were eventually able to roll out the 3D printing service that was ideal for our environment. Since implementation, the Ultimaker 2 hardware has performed more consistently and reliably than we had anticipated. When issues occurred that we could not resolve on our own, Ultimaker technical support was remarkably fast to respond (generally same day, and often same hour) and guided us in resolving all of the issues we have experienced that were beyond our expertise to troubleshoot.
In its current state, 3D printing is intimidating to approach as a new user. While the concept of the procedure the hardware uses to print 3D objects is rather simple to grasp, the inclusion of unfamiliar modeling and staging software in the process adds an extra layer that could deter many interested users. Depending on how complicated the software is, this extra layer can be an opportunity for increased print failure due to user error. Since 3D printing involves lengthy printing times, the impact of print failure is considerable, therefore access to user-friendly and reliable staging software is a must. Fortunately, Ultimaker provides a software solution for print preparation - Ultimaker Cura - which is simple, unintimidating, and easy to use for a novice, but also allows for extensive printing configuration and customization options for the more seasoned user.
Ultimaker technologies are without a doubt the best option for implementing consumer grade 3D printing technology into an enterprise environment with limited resources. The combination of reliable hardware, easy to use software with ultimate customizability, and outstanding tech support make the investment very low risk and supports a very high rate of success regardless of service model.