3D Printing

The changing role of libraries into maker spaces and 3DBear AR

Libraries have a fundamentally important role in modern societies. In fact, historically libraries - as well as schools - have been the early market for disruptions. Think of Augmented Reality (AR) or 3D-printing today or personal computers (PCs) in the 1980s.

Modern libraries are establishing themselves as hubs for lifelong learning and partners in education. There can be several student groups coming to a library per day. When those students arrive, they need well thought-out and pedagogically sound content, linked to curriculum, that can be run through in a limited time frame (typically 2-3 hours) and that is also fun and engaging. Many libraries are also offering summer programs to children when schools are closed for holidays. Leading edge libraries host STEM clubs, tech rooms and even turn themselves into escape rooms. 

When talking of students, it is not just children, but in many cases adult people who attend, say, training in 3D-modelling and 3D-printing in libraries. 3DBear has held many such events in libraries around Finland and abroad. As an example, check out our upcoming workshops in Kirjasto 10, the main library in Helsinki, where students make their own drones, which is such a cool and engaging activity to do.

Many libraries are turning into maker spaces and many of them have several 3D-printers. Typically users would come in, browse for some fun stuff in Thingiverse, such as mobile phone covers or key chains, take the ready-made model with a few tweaks and start 3D-printing. That is all good and well, but the problem with such an approach is that there is very little learning involved, after the first time rush of learning to search for and 3D-print models. 

What we have done in our 3DBear AR -app - that can be freely downloaded from Apple AppStore and Google Play - is to allow library visitors to upload their designs from Thingiverse and visualize them in AR! And check out our free lesson plans as well, linked to curriculum in Finland and US (and more to come based on ever growing demand).

At 3DBear we are all about creativity and learning. We believe in the maker ethic that the most valuable learning comes when a child is actively engaged in the process of designing and making; that is, learning through making. 

Libraries have a fundamentally important role in making the maker ethic come through. They provide access to technology and a platform for learning and publishing. Libraries also function as incubators for new ideas. In fact, the story of 3DBear is a good example of this, as our very first trials for 3D-printing own toys were done in Kirjasto 10, in Helsinki. After those tests we went to talk to the leading professor in Finland in 3D-printing, Mr Jouni Partanen, at Aalto University. Jussi Kajala, one of our Co-Founders, met Pekka Salokannel, our Lead Designer and Co-Founder, for the first time in a 3D-modelling course in a library. So without access to technology, opportunity for learning and access to leading knowledge in libraries and universities, companies like 3DBear simply would not exist. 

In fact, I have used this analogy that modern day libraries are like the famous Parthenon temple in Ancient Greece, where a modern day Socrates can accidentally bump into an Elon Musk and/or Pekka Salokannel and new ideas and wisdom emerges. 

Librarians have an incredibly important role in a modern society to facilitate such encounters. It is a role that is transforming and we do not know exactly what the end state will be. And the role of pioneers is not always easy. At 3DBear, our mission - and in fact my personal passion - is to help libraries and librarians to succeed in that role.

If you want to get started with more pedagogic content in libraries, go and check out the free 3D-models - designed by Pekka Salokannel - at the end of our Product pages: start with Parthenon and the golden ratio calliper. Do you notice that the Parthenon is in Golden ratio and what else can you find around you that is in golden ratio?

What essential service should modern day libraries be offering in your opinion? Send your ideas to support@3dbear.fi. We will reward the best answer.

Author Kristo Lehtonen, is the CEO of 3DBear

The moment when 3DBear got started

The moment when 3DBear got started

Kristo Lehtonen, CEO of 3DBear


3DBear Recycler Blog - Paul's Reflections - Entry #1

β€œHe wanted me to build a machine.”

You should know right off that this is a long story, but I hope you'll find it interesting. There is enough of it, that I figured by breaking it up I could make a reasonable blog, talking about resources, DIY, dreams, and engineering. So I'll start this off by talking about how my buddy and I started working on the 3DBear recycler.

I'm Paul, and I became a student of engineering, because I was tired of watching poorly made and badly designed things break down, and become trash. It broke my heart to know so little about materials like the plastics that are accumulating in our oceans, and what to do about them. So I went back to school. The Arcada University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki, Finland has a program in material science, an engineering degree, so I spent the summer brushing up on my math, and tested in. I met Janne my first day at the school and we got along right away, talking about mechanics, and 3D printing, and possibilities.

Once I got started there I learned loads of reasons that things are worse than we thought they were, and loads of reasons that we can't do anything about it; but I wanted more, I wanted to know about the things that haven't been done yet, and the basics that could be used to develop new methods. So I applied for funding for a research trip, I wanted to better understand waste accumulation. So I went to Bali and convinced local villagers to participate in an ecological project where waste was collected and I did my best to see how quickly it was accumulating and what was being done about it.

A pic of me sorting plastic waste during the Bali Ecological project

A pic of me sorting plastic waste during the Bali Ecological project

The project was a success. I got good data, and I learned a lot of practical skills in the process. Additionally I got the attention of a startup called 3DBear, they wanted to meet me to discuss an opportunity with them. Kristo Lehtonen, one of the founders, strode into the coffee shop where I had agreed to meet him. He is a striking sort of guy, his smile lights the place up and he seems to have an unlimited optimism, traits that are more common in my homeland of California than here in Finland. 

I noticed immediately that nothing was small or commonplace with him. Instead it was overarching vision and seizing this very moment. Usually I find that sort of thing a little cheesy, but when Kristo tells you about it, you can almost see it. So he told me 3DBear was all about changing the world starting with education, and I am all about that, but he went on. 

He wanted me to build a machine. An ecological device that would transform waste plastic into 3D printing filament. 3DBear was scouting both Janne and I to make something new and interesting. I was processing his plan just fine until he said something that threw me off. He said once Janne and I finish building the machine, the entire project goes open-source.


Now that guy who was tired of watching poorly made and badly designed things break down, me; well that guy knew for sure that companies don't invest in open-source. I also knew that startups, and 3DBear was a startup that was two or three months old, startups don't make investments in projects like this. But Kristo was adamant, he and his cofounders were set on doing more than just "changing the world", they wanted to do it responsibly.

So I hope you can understand that I had no choice in the matter. I was working with people who honestly wanted to do the right thing, and had assembled a team with the right skills and passion to meet those goals. I was making accessible technology that changes the way we look at waste. And I was working with one of my best friends. I could not be more grateful of the opportunity, and I have zero regret.

It has been a year, and the project is online, so come and check it out. 

I'll be blogging here, to talk about next steps, to talk about how the recycler can be used, to relate behind the scenes stories, and hopefully, to inspire you and those you know to redefine words like trash, waste, and possible.

Imagine a more flattering pic of Janne and I, can't do it can you?

Imagine a more flattering pic of Janne and I, can't do it can you?

What would you like to know about the project? 

Write to me at Paul (at) 3dbear.fi   with suggestions, questions, etc.

And don't forget to check out the recycler page and our open source files!