orange ball under a pointed device

Let's Build a 3D Printer — Sounds Easy, Doesn't It?

Editor's Note: The employees of the Globe Library in Stokesley, UK, inspired by a local IT enthusiast, were thinking about building a 3D printer from scratch. But they had no money to do it. A Meet and Code grant of Euro 500 allowed them to buy the parts to begin building the printer and involve local youth in the project. Meet and Code is a nonprofit project of TechSoup Europe that introduces children and teens to the world of technology and coding.

Peter Chandler was one of the organizers of the project, which won the Meet and Code Innovation Award in 2018. What follows is an interview between Peter and Meet and Code.

Q: Describe your project in one sentence.

Let's build a 3D printer — sounds easy doesn't it? But it was not as easy as we thought.

Q: Describe your nonprofit organization in one sentence.

The Globe Library is a volunteer-run community library which has been running for over two years, since the County Council withdrew funding from all local libraries in order to cut their running costs. We have well over 100 volunteers and just one part-time paid member of staff (the library manager) to make it all happen. Since becoming volunteer-run, we have massively increased the number of people using the library and added many clubs and events to increase our involvement in the local community.

Q: Where are you located?

Stokesley, North Yorkshire (the nearest big town is Middlesbrough), in England.

Q: What word best describes your role in the organization?

That someone who does everything.

Q: Describe yourself with five words.

Trustee, jack of all trades.

Q: When did you first decide to start your project? Will it be one among many?

The Meet and Code organization was brought to my attention in summer 2018, and I realized that a project we were considering could be a good fit with the Innovation category. I completed the application for initial funding, not expecting that we could actually achieve it. We already have the idea for our next project, which will focus on robotics and Raspberry Pi.

Q: What is the result of the 3D printer project?

The 3D printer will be used in the robotics project to build parts for the robots. The students, 80 percent of whom were beginners in coding, have learned about the components and assembly of a 3D printer, about the importance of its key parts, and also about working together as a team to make a finished product. Now, the working 3D printer can manufacture parts (up to 250 mm in length, height, and width) in a range of thermoplastic polymers.

Q: Where do you see the project in five years?

Our 3D printer is a new resource for the Globe Library. We can now offer library users the possibility of printing their own 3D models. Our first customer is a man who has a vintage motorbike and needs a new headlamp assembly, which we can print for him in ABS polymer. It will take some time to print, but he has agreed to pay the cost of the design, the polymer, and the printing. Who knows what we will be doing in five years' time!

Q: What tips would you give others on the way?

Just go for it. However unusual your idea may be, just give it a try.

Q: How much time did you spend on organizing the event?

Quite a lot, but I have enjoyed every minute.

Q: Who or what inspires you?

Seeing young people achieve more than they initially believe they can — building their self-confidence by working together as a team.

Q: Which tools do you need most in your everyday life?

The skill of working with other people — whatever their age or background.

Q: What do you say about the funding culture in your country?

There is not enough funding for communities and young people

Q: What do you think about Meet and Code?

Meet and Code is a great initiative. I wish there were more initiatives like it.

Q: If you had unlimited funds for your organization right now, what would you do?

Just what I am doing now. I always assume that whatever we want to do, we will somehow find the funding. We ask forgiveness, not permission.

Q: How would you describe your goals — "next week," "next year," "when I'm old"?

One step at a time; and never give up.

Q: What drives you?

Seeing other people succeed — especially the young.

Q: What experiences from your past have made you a better person?

Learning that failing the first time is just a learning experience, a necessary step towards success the next time.

Q: What is the best lunch in the working day?

The one we spend eating and talking together.

Q: If you had to emigrate tomorrow, where would you go?

The Moon?

More About Meet and Code

Meet and Code aims to introduce children and young people between the ages of 8 and 24 to the world of technology and coding. Events are designed to show young people how much fun coding can be and how it can help bring new ideas to life. Behind Meet and Code are the software company SAP, Haus des Stiftens gGmbH, and the respective country partners of the TechSoup Europe network. SAP enables the Meet and Code initiative through financial support and other resources for nonprofits. This post was adapted from a project description and an interview originally published on the Meet and Code website.