Making Connections (2016)

Making Connections (2016)

Dylan Hughes-Ward

Making Connections – 3D printing, Libraries and augmenting their reality (2016)

During his Summer Scholarship project with the National Library of New Zealand/Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Dylan Hughes-Ward discovered that the growing trend towards integrating 3D printing and “makerspaces” in libraries was a polarising topic, so he decided to explore this emerging phenomenon in greater depth.

His project started by exploring and cataloguing the current use of 3D printing and other relevant media technologies in libraries. It included the many digital technologies that have developed alongside 3D printing that make the technology more accessible, as well as other forms of 3D and 4D digital media such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual reality (VR) and sensing technologies, often in the form of smart objects and replicas – all of which are becoming more evident in library practice.

His project builds on Quiver, an Augmented Reality colouring book app developed by HITLabNZ using their MagicBook technology and takes it a step further by integrating it into existing library holdings. In a user scenario aimed at primary school users, Dylan identified a children’s book from the National Children’s Collection; Big Sloppy Dinosaur Socks written by Jan Farr and illustrated by Pamela Allen. This modest book, published in 1977, with its black and white illustrations stands in stark contrast to the hyper-real digital stimulus available to children now. However, the narrative value of the book has not diminished with time; which raised the question, how can children be re-connected to this book? Dylan suggests that individual illustrations could be seeded with AR markers. Image recognition via a smart-device (phone or tablet) then brings the illustrations to life as 3D models which can be rotated and viewed by moving the device around the book.

This speculative scenario includes a complex AR app that allows a large variety of modifications to be made to the models with tools such as sliders similar to those used in many open-source 3D modelling apps, before hitting ‘print’ to bring them into the real world. This gives users the opportunity to extend the narrative into new forms of play and take the book to places never imagined. The inclusion of a model database gives more ambitious users the opportunity to start modifying default models or generating new ones in a process of customisation and co-creation. The model itself can then be used as a smart object engagement point outside the library to link to related books and resources, or simply provide expanded engagement like hand painting for kinesthetically inclined learners. Once seeded in this way, books are instantly updated in public and private collections worldwide – a powerful new way of revitalising and reinvigorating existing collections in real time.

The proposed platform, or system of making, with its combination of 3D printing and AR applications is an example of the move from a digital society toward one that is cyber-physical, where knowledge exists not only in a mental space, but in cyber space, physical space, and social spaces – all fertile territory for the future development of libraries and archives.

Materials and Processes –Closeup


CAD modelling software – SolidWorks, Rhino 5 + Grasshopper plug-in, 3DS Max


3D printers – UP BOX FDM, Stratasys Connex 350, Zprinter 650 Sandstone, EOS P7 SLS

Project level

Master of Design Innovation Research Portfolio submission (MDI), supervisors Simon Fraser and Tim Miller

External Partners

The project was supported by the National Library of New Zealand and the New Zealand Product Accelerator, with special thanks to Jan Farr and Pamela Allen.

Backstory: Journal of New Zealand Art, Media & Design History