Tuesday, 25 October 2016

3D Printed Bookmarks


by Michael Cherry, Teen & Youth Librarian Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library

3D printed bookmarks are a fun and easy project for librarians interested in 3D printing. They are a great way to introduce patrons to computer-aided design (CAD) and don’t require as many light years to 3D print. Their quirkiness will appeal to technophobes and gadget enthusiasts alike. Moreover, they are a unique, outside-the-box project that will engage teenagers, while making a fun Teen Read Week or teen book club activity.


To create a 3D printed bookmark your library will obviously have to own or have access to a 3D printer. If your library does not currently own a printer but is shopping around, one of the best resources available is Make Magazine’s annual review of 3D printers.

In addition to the printer, program participants will need to have access to computer-aided design tools. Many of these tools are free and tutorials can be found online. Open source software tools include Autodesk 123D and Sketchup Make.


Autodesk’s Tinkercad provides the best introductory platform for 3D design. Tinkercad is a browser-based 3D design and modeling tool. Users can set-up an account via the Tinkercad website and design online. All of the designs are stored in the user’s Tinkercad account.

Prior to having patrons design in Tinkercad, it is best to screen the “Tinkercad Tutorial Video” by Autodesk Tinkercad. This video can be accessed via YouTube or by following the link here:

In order to design the bookmark, program participants have several options. There is the mashup technique whereby they could search for open source designs using Tinkercad’s search bar. For example, patrons might search for a face that they could then attach to a body which they design. They may also modify open source designs by changing a character’s face or adding additional features. The beauty of the 3D printed heads is that they will pop out the top of the book, while the body remains flat marking the reader’s page.

Another option is to have participants create the entire bookmark from scratch. The shape of the bookmark can be made by stretching and flattening a few solids. The head can introduce beginning users to negative shapes, such as an eye or mouth cavity, as well as grouping and stacking objects. The latter technique will require repositioning the picture plane as one builds upwards. This technique is demonstrated with the boat example in the “Tinkercad Tutorial Video.”


Lastly, participants do not have to design a face but could try other shapes, figures, and symbols to their delight. When patrons are finished with their bookmarks it is wise to have them set their creations to “public” under the properties setting. This will make their design open source so that it can later be retrieved.  Staff can search for it by title and copy the design into a staff account before printing. Otherwise, it would require knowing the username and password of each individual account.

Additional resources about this fun and simple 3D design project can be found in the library program toolkit below. Happy making!

Download the a How-To Kit with instructions, materials lists, and ideas for enhancing the program and tailoring it to your community.


MikeMichael Cherry  is the Teen and Youth Librarian at Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library in Evansville Indiana. 

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