Practical Magic: Prototypes and Prints

One of our number one reasons for investing in a 3D printer is to foster creativity, ingenuity, tinkering and inventing in the Portsmouth community.  And some of our favorite prints so far have been just that: prototypes, trials and tests.

One couple of such intrepid designers, Britta Shepard and her husband Dan, have been working on creating a prototype of their very own design, TowGo.

The year was 2013.  The place: Yarmouth, Maine.  The situation: Two jackknifed boat trailers on a launch ramp, one daring driver slaloming through the chaos.  The idea: A device mounted on your steering wheel that would enable any driver to smoothly and accurately back up a trailer.  But how to bring the idea—and the math, hey geometry—to life?

TowGo with Britta
Britta attaching the Steering Sensor to the steering wheel, which will guide drivers and their trailers

Fast-forward through two years of obtaining multiple patents, planning, design, redesign and a move for Britta from 20 years in the medical field to working fulltime on getting TowGo going.  “There’s help out there for people who want to do this” said Britta, of switching careers and getting a patented product up and running.  And one such avenue of help?  Yours truly, Gutenberg the 3D printer.

The couple stumbled upon PPL’s tent at this year’s Market Square Day and were excited to find 3D printing among our many awesome offerings.

Using Google Sketchup, Dan gave their idea a fancy 3D design makeover and submitted their first prototype for printing here at the library, bringing TowGo into the physical word as a product, not just an idea.

Because we use PLA plastic filament (that’s corn-based plastic that smells delightfully of waffles when printing) here at the library, our printer is wonderful for a first design and test print, and at $0.05/gram of the finished print, it’s not a bad deal for a test run in three dimensions.  But for a sturdier second run, Britta brought their design to the Port City Makerspace where they are currently working on perfecting that design.

TowGo Together

Britta has spent the summer making design tweaks, marketing and talking up TowGo (check out this article about 3D printing in libraries from New America and this NHPR piece featuring the soothing humming of our very own Gute), and setting up the TowGo Kickstarter to start funding for production—which will, like TowGo’s roots in PPL’s 3D printer, be almost entirely New Hampshire-based.

Want to follow along on their adventure in entrepreneurship?  Check out TowGo on Facebook and Twitter for updates, their Kickstarter to help make the dream a reality, and their website for more information on the product and the process.

Have your own idea you want to bring onto the physical plane?  Try your hand at 3D design using a website like Tinkercad and submit it on our website or via email.

Stay crafty, Portsmouth!

Join us for one of our upcoming demos to watch Gute in action:
Wednesday        9/2         2:00pm
Thursday           9/10        2:00pm
Friday                9/18        3:30pm
Wednesday       9/23        2:00pm
Check our Facebook events or our calendar for updates.


Gutenberg enjoys humming, getting crafty, and causing mischief around the library. Gute’s people enjoy tinkering, making, and discovering ingenious solutions to everyday problems. If you have questions or suggestions for future Practical Magic posts, please feel free to email us at

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