Digital technologies have initiated a global shift in the way we conceive, configure, and exchange information. This shift is occurring on many levels and is impacting the way many organisations operate; including Libraries.

The National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa provides the context for this research to explore how 3D printing, related technologies and media can be used to better connect people and collections empowering its mandate to “collect, connect and co-create knowledge to power New Zealand” (National Library of New Zealand, 2015).


Context Analysis

This context analysis explores three key aspects in reference to the research question: Libraries (more specifically The National Library of New Zealand), technology, and smart objects.


Libraries’ roles are changing because of the shift in information communication (Lougee, 2002). This can be seen in the shifting definition of libraries, from organisations defined “largely by the functions of collection development and management.” (Lougee, 2002, p. 5), to organisations that “provide resources for not only consuming information, but also for generating new information and research.” (Pryor, 2014, p. 2).

This shift places the modern library as a service provider of knowledge to create new knowledge, rather than an information collection. As service providers, most libraries give public access to books, computers, the internet, and printing. However, contention surrounds including new technologies within their services. Libraries are adopting a view that there is no business case for the inclusion of new technologies; some are even dismissing these new technologies, specifically 3D printing, as simply “technolust” (Rundle, 2013). Counter to this, R. David Lankes of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies states in his blog post Beyond the Bullet Points: Missing the Point and 3D Printing, that at the core of the library is idea creation and knowledge generation and that a 3D printer is simply another tool, just like the computer, to allow creation (Lankes, 2013).

With the Library providing the context for this research, it is important to understand libraries’ role within New Zealand. The Library's job is “to collect, connect, and co-create knowledge to power New Zealand. Collect: New Zealand's documentary taonga in words, sounds, and pictures are collected, protected, and accessible. Connect: New Zealanders can easily access national and international resources through knowledge networks. Co-create: New Zealanders working together to turn knowledge into value” (National Library of New Zealand, 2015). This statement shows how the Library’s role compares to the traditional definition of a library, with three keywords as part of its mandate, “Collect, Connect, and Co-Create.” This mandate captures the Library’s goal of co-creation and how it relates to the shifting definition of libraries, putting the Library into the domain of Pryor’s definition as a resource for consuming and also generating new knowledge. This is an interesting place to be situated contextually, as it gives the Library a strategic basis from which to venture into new areas to fulfil its mandate.

One of these new areas of technology is 3D printing, a service being offered by more and more libraries around the world. Auckland Central City Library, University College of London's Petrie Museum, Dundee Central Library in Scotland, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's Lovejoy Library, and The New Zealand National Library are just a handful of the libraries offering 3D printing. These libraries experimenting with 3D printing are using it in different ways, from makerspaces (Maloney, 2014), to 3D printing children's book characters (The Courier Reporter, 2014). Currently the Library is exploring giving the public access to 3D printing with three UP! 3D printers (National Library of New Zealand, n.d. 2016).



(a) 3D printing

Far from being a new technology, 3D printing far from being a new technology has been around for 30 years (Warnier, Verbruggen, Ehmann, & Klanten, 2014) and initially made its way into mainstream manufacturing in the form of rapid prototyping. 3D printing comes in a range of forms that are often referred to as additive manufacturing. This refers to a process where material is slowly built up layer by layer as defined by a digital computer aided design (CAD) file to reveal the desired form (Warnier et al., 2014). 3D printing is to some “the Holy Grail of the rapid-prototyping (RP) industry.” (Ashley, 1997, p. 82) as there is minimal waste from only building up the form you want, as opposed to traditional subtractive manufacturing where material is removed to reveal the desired form.

The most common 3D printers are fused deposition modelling (FDM) printers, which use a variety of coloured plastics that are heated and extruded in layers to form the object. Recently FDM printers have attracted popular attention, with companies such as MakerBot and 3D systems (3DS) making low-cost 3D printers - the Makerbot replicator and UP! Printer respectively. Both these printers are commercially available for around NZ$2000 (PB Tech, 2016). However, much more advanced 3D printers are also in use, which allow highly detailed full colour 3D models to be printed. The range of materials being used for 3D printing is developing quickly (Lipson & Kurman, 2013, p. 264), with different materials such as metals and ceramics as well as a large variety of plastics now on offer. The advent of low-cost printers would not have whetted public appetite for 3D printing without the availability of the many associated technologies. Advances in CAD, 3D scanning, and online 3D printing services have created the platform on which 3D printing could flourish. The many options available for these technologies (Solidworks, Rhino, 3DS, Maya, Zbrush, Sketch up, 123D, Blender, TinkerCAD, FreeCAD, Meshmixer, 123D design and Onshape, 3D scanning, 3D Systems’ iSense 3D Scanner, Artec Eva 3D Scanner, MakerBot Digitizer 3D Scanner, Dynascan M250) have all played a significant role in breaking down barriers to 3D printing.

This reduced threshold for entry and the advent of the makerspace has encouraged a slew of libraries, all seeking new ways of engaging with their public, to engage in 3D printing.

(b) Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology used to overlay digital content onto physical reality (Azuma et al., 2001). AR uses image tracking, a display unit, scripts, and a software engine to create a 3D representation of a digital model within the physical world (Billinghurst, Clark, & Lee, 2015). AR uses a reader to track a 2D printed marker such as a Quick Response code (QR) or other unique identifier that the engine has been trained to recognise (Billinghurst et al., 2015). The marker, through the engine database, is linked to a digital 3D model that is shown over the marker on a digital display as it would appear in the 3D digital space. From there this model can be interacted with on the display and navigated around in the 3D digital world.

Like 3D printing, augmented reality devices are not new technology and have existed in some form since the 1960s (Azuma et al., 2001) originally as dedicated devices for reading and displaying AR, usually attached to a computer that runs the AR engine. There has been much exploration into AR and possible applications since the 1960s (Billinghurst et al., 2015). It now holds an interesting place in culture, with mainstream applications of AR in sports such as sailing (Honey, Milnes, 2013) to display information live while races are occurring. With the development of smart phones the technology once reliant on dedicated reading devices rapidly became pocket sized and smart phones are now a viable option for AR (Wagner, Schmalstieg, 2009) with the reader, display and engine all in one. This advancement initiated the development of mobile apps that utilise this compact reader and display in one, such as Layar, Google Translate live, Crayola Color Alive, IKEA catalogue and the Lego Catalogue.

AR offers opportunities for interaction and content exploration through a digital interface. AR is a way for people to connect with digital content in the physical world, beginning to integrate the digital into physical (Azuma et al., 2001). Exploring digital content in a physical world through digital representation is something worth investigating for libraries and museums with ever-expanding collections of digital content. Applications of augmented reality are becoming increasingly popular in libraries and museums (Pence, 2010) and offering the opportunity to “connect” the digital and physical supports the mandate of the Library.


Smart Object

“A Smart Object is able to acquire, to receive and to distribute information in a near or distant environment, and is able to carry out diverse actions on its own initiative or request help from others objects” (Bajic, 2009, p. 37). The concept of smart objects has existed for some time, from ubiquitous computing in 1993 by Mark Weiser, to more recently with the popularisation of the term smart object. These terms refer to the connection of multiple devices to a network to generate information and allow the devices to adapt over time to the context (Goumopoulos, Kameas, 2009).

Like many technologies, the smart object is becoming ubiquitous and expanding increasingly into new areas (Vasseur, Dunkels, 2010). The adaptive nature of smart objects is evident in their uptake into everyday life, as can be seen from the onslaught of smart fridges, smart washing machines, smart TVs, smart shoes, and smart phones. Smart object use has expanded to the point where it must be asked, why the proliferation and what do they offer? This question is answered in part by research into the potential of smart objects in different areas (Hsu, 2011; Kimura, Nakajima, 2009; Praca, Barral, 2001; Roozenburg, 2013; Sinha, Couderc, 2013). A growing number of smart objects are also demonstrating commercial success such as Hue, Sonos, WeMo, Nike +, fitbit, nest, smart TV, Withings Body Scale, and Koubachi.

Smart objects have also been used to facilitate tracking and provide easy access to information. The first documented smart object dates back to 1982, when engineering students at Carnegie Mellon University connected a vending machine to the internet to check the availability of cold drinks (Madakam, 2015).

This led to the development of interconnected devices to gather information and generate data, and from this the internet of things (IOT) emerged. The IOT is defined as an open network of intelligent objects that can share information and react to situations or changes in their environment (Madakam, 2015).

Many different technologies are utilised in the development of smart objects and the IOT, such as Bluetooth low energy (BLE), Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Near Field Communication (NFC), Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and wireless. As a result, the use of smart objects and the IOT has blossomed. Its impact is made visible though sites such as However, the role of smart objects in libraries is still new territory. Becker (2012) discusses this in Get Smart: Raising the Intelligence of DIY Library Smart Objects, where he investigates libraries’ potential to be a space where people are introduced to smart objects. This evolving use of smart objects encourages further exploration to provide new experiences and interactions.


Smart Object reviews

To further develop a deeper contextual understanding of smart objects and surrounding technologies a selection of case studies were reviewed. This chapter includes the four key cases that had the most significant impact on the development of the project. A full list of case studies can be found in appendix (b).



To explore the role 3D printing could have in the Library Design scenarios were used to simulate the use of Augmented Reality in connection with 3D printing to create augment content from the book Big Sloppy Dinosaur Socks, by Jan Farr and Pamela Allen. This called on iterative design experimentation using a wide range of CAD tools and 3D printing processes. To do this 3D CAD software was used in conjunction with visual programing based generative software to create a parametric 3D model of the dinosaur illustrated in Big Sloppy Dinosaur Socks.

This scenario creates a clear connection between the Library collections and how interactions with content can be expanded into both digital and physical interactions. A functionally simple AR app is used to mediate between the content and the 3D printing. The app connects to the Library’s current implementation of 3D printing, using the UP! printers. This scenario speculates about how these technologies could be implemented at the most straightforward entry level. The print has been downloaded without any additional manipulation and the personalisation that occurs within this scenario is the hand painting of the 3D print. This gives the child the opportunity to impart their own creative vision to the appearance of the dinosaur. The personalization begins to show how the narrative can be developed through simple hand painting and it follows an interesting trajectory from the physical into digital and back to physical. This scenario speculates that following a class trip to the Library no two hand painted dinosaurs would look the same.

This scenario speculates on another level of AR with an animation to further bring the dinosaur to life before it is printed. The animation allows some customisation of the printed model by frame freezing the pose of the print. An additional narrative has been created by adding a variety of shoes. This extension invites co-creation in the form of unexpected contributions that can be supplemented or modified by anyone with access to 3D CAD software. Along with this physical feedback of receiving the shoes, the shoes could also be digitally applied to the AR model and animation, reconnecting the 3D printing back to the on screen model.

This scenario uses a complex AR app that allows a large variety of modifications to be made to the model, giving users the ability to customise the model with a wide variety of tools similar to those in many open-source 3D modelling apps. This customisation gives users opportunity to take the narrative of the book to places never imagined and thus extend the narrative.

With the app connecting to multiple different methods of 3D printing the highly customised models are able to be printed in any way the user decides; multi-material is used here to showcase the tactile nature of 3D printing. The inclusion of a model database gives users the opportunity to start building on other models, creating co-created models.


In responding to the question “But why exactly is it appropriate for a library service to provide 3D printing?” this thesis project provides a plausible group of scenarios as a reference point for future development. As a design response to the question it is speculative, but nevertheless informed by an in-depth exploration of the surrounding technological context and access to the Library’s collections.  

The initial context exploration into smart objects, technologies, and collections developed a clear and grounded understand of the surrounding context. In response, the case studies identified opportunities to develop connections between a broad range of technologies and media, gave a departure point for ideation and development of scenarios.

The subsequent scenarios demonstrate potential applications of 3D printing. To focus the scenarios a specific collection item was used to create cohesion between the scenarios while demonstrating how different outputs can emerge from the same item. The scenarios also allowed connections between different forms of media – 2D analogue to 3D virtual, to 3D physical and back to 2D analogue – to emerge. This sequence honors the tactile nature of books taking advantage of digital technologies to rejuvenate, then returning to physical play and narrative extension. Along with the diversity of potential outputs from a singular input, the scenarios highlight how potential applications of different types of 3D printing can in themselves be an inspiration for new narratives. While the scenarios still need to be resolved on a technical level, they are intended to awaken interest in future possibilities.

In providing an opportunity for narrative extension, the intention of the scenarios is to invite a response from the Library community; important to this was Jan Farr’s contribution. When asked if she would contribute to a scenario she graciously obliged.

Jan Farr was asked to colour in a line drawing of the dinosaur from Big Sloppy Dinosaur Socks.

From this coloured-in drawing, it was then possible to texture the digital model of the dinosaur with these colours, simulating Quiver-type technology. Using 3D full colour sandstone (Projet) printing resulted in a physical reincarnation of the dinosaur from the book, co-created with the author herself, revitalising her own content and bringing the dinosaur to life in a new form nearly 40 years after the book's publication. Jan Farr’s engagement demonstrates in a microcosm how participation from unexpected sources might occur when suitable systems of co-creation and networks of making are implemented. The opportunity for the Library, and indeed libraries worldwide, to update physical collections not only has implications for re-empowering their existing collections – it could potentially change the way new books are written, produced, and published.

The technologies and media speculated on in the scenarios are still nascent in everyday use. The growing trend to 3D and 4D data collections will only accelerate the development of this process, as these technologies become ubiquitous. With ease of access to increasingly sophisticated online networks, with more 3D printing service providers, faster and more varied 3D printing methods, more intuitive CAD modelling software, and with libraries diversifying their collections to suit the increasing range of digital images, websites, 3D scans, 3D models, and other dynamic media, it is clear that digital technologies will play a significant role in the future of libraries. Just as the need for computers in society was debated, the discussion about a place for 3D printing within library services may soon become superfluous.

Documentation of the 3D modeling, CAD and 3D printing used in this study.

A number of different CAD and parametric modelling techniques were used to create the final outputs of the scenarios; these are detailed below.

Breaking down the parametric model used.

Below is the first section of the Grasshopper definition used to create the dinosaur.

1.     Controls the size of each component.

2.     Defines points to build the geometry from.

3.     Turns those points into a curve.

4.     Creates a variable size pipe around the curve that defined the main shape of the dinosaur.

5.     Creates a cap for the tail end of the pipe.

Below is the section of the Grasshopper definition used to create the facial features.

           1. Controls the size of each component.

           2. and 3. Are used to define what plane and the placement of the smile.

           4. Uses those planes and points from the body section to create a curve.

           5. Creates a pipe around the curve to give the dinosaur a smile

           6. Defines where the first eye is built, from points on the body.

           7. Uses those points to create a sphere.

           8. Builds from the eye to make an eyebrow, defining points and a curve.

           9. A pipe is then created around this which is mirrored along with the eye.

This section of the definition is used to create the arms.

           1. Controls the size of each component.

           2. Defines points used to place the arms and create curve from them.

           3. Is piping the curve.

           4. Mirrored this pipe to create the second arm.

           5. Rotates this second arm slightly to create a more natural look.

This following definition is used to define the present at the end of one arm

    1. Creates a link to a box and wrap around it.

    2. Moves this box to close to the arm.

    3. Breaks apart this box to create a plane that will align with the arm.

    4. Is used to create the plane.

    5. Brings the geometry from the arm down and creates a plane to

          align with.

    6. Aligned these two items together.

This following definition is used to define the legs of the dinosaur.

        1. Controls the size of each component.

        2. Turns the points into a curve

        3. Pipes a circle along the curve.

        4. Mirrors the first leg.

        5. Creates a ball for ball and socket joints, with the socks at the correct scale from the end of the leg.

        6. Mirrors this to the other leg.

        7. Creates a union of the ball and the leg together.

        8. Defines the socks in Grasshopper, which are modelled in CAD.

This following definition is used to define the scales of the dinosaur.

        1. Is used to define the shape of the scales.

        2. Breaks the surface of the dinosaur into boxes, controlled with sliders.

        3. The scale form is then morphed into each.

        4. Splits off the scales from around parts of the model where not desired e.g., the face

        5. and 6. Creates a duplicate of this with scales on the tail only to create a gradient of the scale size.

        7. Modifies the scales to fit the body proportions.

Scenario 1

In this scenario FDM 3D prints of the dinosaur were used as a blank canvas for children to hand paint as they saw fit. Different sizes of prints were used to find the best size. Also a number of socks were printed to assess the best fit and suitability for painting.

Scenario 2

Scenario 2 called for speculation of what shoes the dinosaur could be wearing now that he had tight-fitting socks. It was decided that gumboots, dress shoes, and socks and jandals would be used to demonstrate a variety of situations. These models were made in Rhino.

Socks and Jandals.

Following the image left to right you can see how the sock and jandal was made. A networked surface was used to make the sock and one toe then a modified and mirrored version of this was used to make the second toe. A networked surface is a Rhino function that uses curves to define the shape of a surface created in one action.



From this the jandal form was created using an extruded surface and pipes to create the toe holds. The top of the sock was removed and the ball joint booleaned out of the form. Some small adjustments to the form and bottom of the jandal were then made to complete the form.


The gumboots have had a few iterations to find the best size that would fit onto the dinosaur without reaching too high up the leg. The process to create the gumboots is shown left to right below. First, a loft from a series of ovals were used to create the back half of the boot. This was combined with a networked surface that created the front of the boot. A lofted section between the bottom profile of the overall form was used to create the heel of the boot, with a pipe around this to make it more realistic. Once these parts were created and combined a boolean subtraction was used to form the socket for the ball, and the gumboot model is complete.

Gumboots 3.PNG

Dress shoes.

The dress shoes were created in a similar way to the front of the gumboots, with a networked surface from curves. The top was then cut off it and a section of the bottom cut out to make the heel and scaled up slightly. A curve was projected onto the middle of the shoe to form an area for decorative holes, as seen on a Brogue shoes. These holes were generated by creating an array of circles on a curve. These circles were then cut out and filleted. Another curve was projected onto the front to generate a pipe for further decoration. Finally, the socket was boolean subtracted away from the form.

3D print preparation.

Once created, these shoes had to be prepared for colour Connex 3D printing. The colour Connex 3D printer is a polyjet 3D printer that uses precisely placed drops of liquid hardened by UV light to build up the form layer by layer. This printer was chosen for its accuracy and ability to produce multiple colours and hardnesses.

To prepare the files a colours had to be chosen for the prints; shown below is a selection of renders to find a suitable colour. Once the desired colours were chosen each part of the model needed to be exported as a separate stereolithography (STL) file for each colour/material and sent to the printer.

Scenario 3

Creating a fat dinosaur as part of the narrative extension was done parametrically through adding to the Grasshopper definition. The highlighted blue section below indicates the part of the definition that was added to create a hollow fat dinosaur.

Below is the definition that was added to create the hollow

           1. Imports the enlarged dinosaur from the rest of the definition and defines a split point for head and eye hollow.

           2. Creates pipes that connect to the eyes.

           3. Splits these with each other and begins the union.

           4. Unions these together into one geometry.

           5. Takes variables from the original dinosaur and creates a pipe around them for the body hollow.

           6. Unions the body and eye hollow together.

           7. Creates a union with the rest of the model.

Once this model was created it was be exported in separate parts in a similar way to the coloured shoes, to be printed on the multimaterial polyjet 3D printer at Victoria University.

Scenario 4

The final scenario called for the dinosaur to be texture mapped with the colour from the image Jan Farr coloured in. This texturing was created in 3DS Max.

First the model had to be imported into 3DS and the surface of it unwrapped into flat sections. For this to happen the scales of the dinosaur had to be removed as they were too complex.

Once unwrapped the texture was mapped onto the unwrapped surface in photoshop and applied back onto the model in 3DS to create the final output.

The final colour model was printed in full colour Projet sandstone.