Students’ 3D-printed creations come to life at University Library’s Creative Media Studio


Abrielle Rounds

3D-printing machines are available for student use at the University Library’s Creative Media Studio in Northridge, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.

Julia Sahakian, Reporter

The Creative Media Studio at the CSUN University Library’s Learning Commons attracts a wide variety of engineering students, testing out their 3D prototypes and manufacturing. 3D printing has benefited the medical field by manufacturing prosthetics.

“A lot of medical professionals are working on how to 3D print actual body parts, like noses and ears, so that they can attach it to someone who lost that particular body part,” said Eva Cohen, the Learning Commons lead.
3D printing is building a three-dimensional object or figurine through a layering method. This layering method uses various materials to create shape, size, texture and color.

The CMS uses a non-toxic and biodegradable material filament for printing called PLA plastic, which is made out of cornstarch. The studio is funded by the campus quality fee, which is voted on by students and included in their tuition.

As part of the Learning Commons, CMS gives students tools that help them create visual content and bring their creations to life with 3D printing.

A close-up of the 3D-printed tea spilling off the tail of the Cheshire Cat in the University Library’s Creative Media Studio in Northridge, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (Abrielle Rounds)

CSUN brought 3D printers into the library to expand its “offerings from solely media-focused technology to more STEM-based tools that promote the idea of making, collaborating, learning, and sharing,” according to Cohen.

Students are able to create prosthetics, DNA strand models, chess boards,  phone stands and even Alice in Wonderland figurines.

The studio started hosting workshops in the fall of 2016. The workshops help beginners and seasoned experts grasp more knowledge and gain hands-on experience with the equipment in the studio.

It is geared toward those who have an interest in prototyping, digital creation and multimedia production. The workshop is a learning experience for students to showcase their creativity and develop technical skills.

“Just as our in-person services are geared towards those of any major, we wanted to make sure our workshops are understandable to someone who has never even opened an Adobe program, picked up a DSLR camera, or seen a 3D printer,” Cohen said.

While in-person workshops had to be stopped due to the pandemic, the pandemic actually helped provide more online workshops for students. This allowed students to partake in more workshops virtually compared to physically attending. However, this fall semester CMS virtual workshops had to be scaled down due to the library reopening. As a result, only 10 out of 19 virtual workshops were made available for students this fall for a two-week period , according to Cohen.


Details of this 3D-printed castle reveal that sometimes layers are needed to create a piece, and that multicolor filament can be used. The figure sits in the University Library’s Creative Media Studio on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (Abrielle Rounds)

“3D printing is kind of an emerging technology that’s coming into different libraries and they’re even bringing them into pre-K, all the way through 12th grade to kind of promote their emerging technology into education,” Cohen said during a beginners’ workshop on Zoom.

A CMS student assistant guides the student through the process of choosing a setting and style for the 3D print.

Once the print is cleared, the student is given an approximate completion of the print. According to Cohen, the median printing time is about five to six hours, while the maximum is 10 hours.

“Students who delve into 3D printing will develop critical thinking skills that will aid them in solving common 3D print model errors and enable them to troubleshoot more complex issues within the printer mechanics or software,” Cohen said.

3D printers are not the only tools the library has for students to use. Laser cutters, 3D scanners, sewing machines, button makers and virtual reality equipment are also available.

Students of any major have access to multimedia and production tools such as cameras, tripods, audio recorders, green screens and lighting equipment.

The CMS department provides computers for students to utilize for editing videos, photos, audio and 3D modeling.

The CMS is closed for face-to-face workshops for the fall semester, but is open for in-person appointments. The studio is planning on hosting face-to-face workshops in the beginning of spring 2022.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Dec. 13, 2021 at 3:32 p.m. to correct information regarding access to virtual workshops during the pandemic.