Many makerspaces are built around the 3D printer as a main attraction. Makerbot has made the purchase of a 3D printer and the accompanying software a possibility for some libraries and makerspaces.
The Taylor Family Digital Library at the University of Calgary makes use of a Makerbot 3D printer in its Digital Media Commons. Recently, I attended a workshop run by a Digital Mentor to walk through the steps to generate an artifact in 3D.
Next, we were introduced to a 3D scanner by Next Engine that scans 3D objects with laser precision for printing. This scanner is reported to be used by Jay Leno for reproducing small parts for his vintage car collection.
Then, we returned to see how the scanned item was imported into the Makerbot software. This software is one of the reasons that Makerbot is such a popular trademark. It is easy to learn and prints good results.
Although a 3D printer is not essential in a makerspace, it does add a bit of novelty to making. One of the recent items printed at the TFDL was the 3D model of a brain for a neuroscience student. As she works on the model she is extra careful since it is the image of her own brain. For unique parts or for those intent on designing unique items, the makerbot delivers.