Since libraries could be considered to be the "archives of knowledge" gluing society together, it is rather appropriate that they become repositories of 3D printable ideas as well. Giving community access to .stl files through the library system has intellectual merit allowing students, scholars, and educators to download and print models that would augment their current studies.
Setting the trend is the Columbia University Library System, where students can upload and download models that could appeal to a range of disciplines. The catalog of models featured on the Columbia Library 3D printing site are pedagogically appropriate and can give educators good ideas to tie 3D printing into curriculums.
The STL examples represent a range of subjects taught at universities. Here are a few scenarios that illustrate how the Columbia models could be used in presentations and lectures:
- In history, holding a 3D printed Skyphos vase can help transport a student to ancient Greece.
- Print a saddle point curve to get a firmer understanding of mathematics.
- Allow students to examine a printed 3D model of a nucleotide up close to give a better insight into the mutations that cause Cystic Fibrosis.
Programmers developing STL databases and manufacturers wishing to build a digital part library would be wise to pay the Columbia 3D printing site a visit. At the Columbia site each STL can be viewed in 3D space and links direct users to supplemental research which further detail the model being explored.
Having a readily available catalog of STL files is also a useful resource for on-campus fabrication labs. At the Columbia 3D printing site students are directed to The Output Shop, a division of Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where they can gain access to on-campus 3D printers.