3-D Printing in Education

3-D printing is nothing especially new, but it might become a more prevalent tool used in classrooms around the world. The use of 3-D printing has already been used to enhance education in some classrooms and it’s becoming more and more popular in education. If you’re not familiar with 3-D printing, it is a process in which a solid 3-D object is created from a Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawing, which outlines the dimensions and sizing of the file. Users can create their own unique objects using a computer software or they might choose to use a modifiable 3-D template that can be found online. With the right equipment and software, a user can also take a 3-D scan of an image to record measurements.

Model of a CAD drawing.

 

With free programs such as SketchUp and TinkerCad, more and more students are using digital printers or at least creating files that could potentially be printed with a digital printer. Anyone can learn how to create their own 3-D designs for free online. There are many different things that students can do with 3-D printers. such as selling their own creations, making models of atoms, studying fragile fossils, or learning about aerodynamics. 3-D printing in the classroom provides a great way for students to become young inventors and learn the principles of design.

You might be surprised to learn that even students in grades as young as first grade are learning the basics of SketchUp and building designs in classrooms around the world. When kids learn these skills at young ages, they will be able to transfer their skills into future careers involving 3-D printing.

When 3-D printers first came out, most schools could not afford such luxurious technology, however, recently the price of 3-D printers drastically dropped. Lower end 3-D printers can cost as little as $500, but more expensive versions can cost upwards of thousands of dollars, but most schools only need the basic printers to do amazing, creative things in the classroom. However, many schools do not yet have room in their budget to afford 3-D printers. School programs centered around technology and engineering are becoming more open to including technology such as 3-D printers into their budget for STEM education.

Ultimaker: 3-D printer retailing for several thousand dollars.
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