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Design Spot

Sacramento Public Library, CA

Contact: Rivkah Sass,

Community Partners: HackerLab, Crocker Art Museum


The Design Spot enables designers of all ages and abilities to prototype their ideas. Housed in a busy branch in a low-income area, and funded by a California State Library LSTA grant, the Design Spot offers computers with software such as AutoCAD and Photoshop, along with 3D printers and “makers” who demonstrate the potential of these technologies. Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed saw a 3D printer for the first time at their library. Since the space opened in May of 2013, hundreds of tinkerers, inventors, designers and the merely curious have visited the Design Spot to learn about this exciting new technology. Local inventors have been particularly appreciative of the opportunity to prototype their inventions free of charge. Teachers have used the space to inspire their students. One of the Library’s most dedicated volunteers has initiated partnerships with the Society for the Blind and Crocker Art Museum so that those with vision impairments can interact with art in a tactile way by handling 3D printed facsimiles of works in the Crocker collection.


Although hundreds of people have experimented with 3D printing at the Sacramento Public Library’s Design Spot, two success stories stand out. Cousins Nate Zavaleta, 24, and Alex Smith, 18, were inspired by their love of snowboarding to design a snowflake shaped multi-tool and used the library to turn their idea into a working prototype. Their invention, an “adventure tool” called the HexFlex, is really 15 different tools including multiple screwdrivers and wrenches (and a bottle opener) in a single piece of solid steel. To take their design from prototype to market, Nate and Alex used Kickstarter to fund production, raising over $70,968 from 2,572 project backers. The Library’s Design Spot grant was for $77,500, so we like to think that the economic boon from this single project has nearly recouped the LSTA investment!

Tom Sanderson had never even heard of 3D printing before reading an article about the Library’s new machines, but he was so inspired he immediately offered to become our first volunteer. Tom put his recent retirement to good use, quickly becoming indispensable in the Design Spot helping patrons and printing items to show the capability of the machines. Tom is also responsible for pulling together our most innovative partnership related to the Design Spot—scanning art from the Crocker Art Museum for use in tactile tours for the blind. Thanks to Tom, representatives from the Society for the Blind have also visited the Design Spot to explore the potential benefits of 3D printing for their clients: