A creative Blueprint

Published on 16 February 2020

Smiling woman with child on her lap sitting at one of the makerspace machines.

From 3D-printed prototypes to laser-cut gifts, and vinyl cut clothing designs to hygiene products for developing countries, Blueprint – the City Library Makerspace is already enabling creativity, solutions and innovation in its first few months of opening.

In the old Public Trust site, Blueprint has been years in the works and now has a space in which it can have all its equipment out all the time for public use. While  Palmerston North City Library has owned the equipment for a few years, it was previously only brought out to support workshops or events.
Community Creation Coordinator Harley Bell says Blueprint's driving force is to enable people, in a low-cost way, "be creative, to learn, to get a taste of the kind of stuff you wouldn't normally have access to".
While not the first New Zealand Makerspace, Blueprint is the biggest library-facilitated space. "We've been fortunate to have a leadership team who've pushed for it, who've believed in it."
A small child wearing goggles is open-mouthed in wonder as the 3D printer forms a brightly coloured and sculptural vase.  

Most popular at Blueprint are the 3D printing machines.

These printers have seen an evolution in use since being introduced to the library about three years ago. It's moved on from novelty trinkets. "Now the majority of people are designing their own items, which is exactly what we hoped for," Harley says.

Replacement parts for washing machines and cars and one-off manufacturing prototypes are now being made. One man is designing a new mousetrap, model engineers create parts, a solar panel installer is remodelling overseas parts to suit New Zealand's needs.

For a young diabetic, 3D printing was able to replace a broken sensor holder. "We took the broken one, remodelled it in the software and printed her some new ones," Harley says.

If you're thinking personalised gifts, the laser cutter, for cutting and engraving wood, acrylics, felt and leather might be the equipment for you. "That's something that I wish I could have in my shed at home," Harley says.

"We've found that it is very much an instant gratification machine – you can take a design from a computer to being cut or engraved in less than 10 minutes."

Harley says people have been bringing in low-cost, store sourced chopping boards or coasters and adding their own designs. A retired woodworker used it in making furniture for his grandchildren. "He got some old reclaimed rimu...cleaned it up, brought it in here and he engraved it with their names and favourite pictures." Flat-pack birdhouse Christmas gifts and welding jigs are other items that have been created with the laser cutter.

A person points to a design on a computer screen next to a t-shirt laser-printed with the same design.  

Blueprint tech enables users to create a design and take it from PC to tee.

Vinyl cutters are also available at Blueprint, for making products from large-format stickers, to heat-pressed transfers, to stencils. "Heat-pressed logos for shirts and bags have proved really popular."

Those working with cloth might also take advantage of the sewing machines, overlockers and embroidery machine. “They’re for you to use, come in and get started. We look after the machines, you just need to provide the skills,” Harley says.

A Red Cross refugee group comes in for weekly sewing and making bunting and bags for sale at the Red Cross Shop. "It's not just a production thing for them, it's also a social thing." Days for Girls NZ members come in to sew reusable women's hygiene products to send to developing countries.

Also available at Blueprint are computers with the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, including Photoshop and InDesign, and software for 3D modelling. Rooms are set up with equipment for electronics and woodworking.

Blueprint welcomes school groups into the Makerspace. Groups are introduced to the machinery, discuss health and safety, then split up to work on 3D printing, laser cutting, robotics, electronics, and more. "School groups absolutely love it – they don't want to leave!"

Blueprint – the City Library Makerspace is at 7 The Square, at the front of the Palmerston North Central Library. It is open varied hours Wednesday to Saturday.

This story was originally published in the summer 2019 issue of PalmyProud. Read the latest issue.

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