What is 3D Printing?

Known in industrial circles as rapid prototyping, 3D printing refers to technologies that construct physical objects from three-dimensional (3D) digital content such as 3D modeling software, computer-aided design (CAD) tools, computer-aided tomography (CAT), and X-ray crystallography. A 3D printer builds a tangible model or prototype from the electronic file, one layer at a time, through an extrusion-like process using plastics and other flexible materials, or an inkjet-like process to spray a bonding agent onto a very thin layer of fixable powder. The deposits created by the machine can be applied very accurately to build an object from the bottom up, layer by layer, with resolutions that, even in the least expensive machines, are more than sufficient to express a large amount of detail. The process even accommodates moving parts within the object. Using different materials and bonding agents, color can be applied, and parts can be rendered in plastic, resin, or metal. This technology is commonly used in manufacturing to build prototypes of almost any object (scaled to fit the printer, of course) that can be conveyed in three dimensions.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Jan 27, 2014 Last year 3D printing was at the top of my list, this year it's near the bottom. Still very excited about the potential for this in schools, but as you know (and are tired of reading about, no doubt) our first 3D printer...well, doesn't actually print anything...at least not yet. I'm going to send it back one more time but if it still doesn't work, we might be dead in the water at the current school. I'm hoping that the arrival of my 3Doodler pen might rekindle some interest. Just remember that you get what you pay for...you'll probably have to invest much more than $500 to get a good 3D printer. OK, enough of that. The reason that I'm still gung-ho about 3D printing is that I want to make it the centerpiece of our STEM curriculum...but to get all other subjects involved as well. The goal is to not just get kids to print already existing models, but to use 3D software to design their own stuff...then print it. Hello, future engineers and designers! It's hands-on, collaborative, you name it. One of the problems I've had with 3D stuff in general is that students can only look at their creations on a monitor...but with 3D printing you can hold them in your hand. Another plus is that with all the media buzz about 3D printing...hardly a day goes by without learning about all the wonderful stuff they can do...is that this is universally seen as the ultimate in cutting-edge technology. The sales job is already done, in other words...kids really want to do this!

  • I would agree with David that you get what you pay for. We have used 3-D printing in our high school Technology programs for 5 years. The three units are used in a variety of classes and are almost always in use. However, these were not entry level machines. We have added 3D scanners since beginning the the program. It is critical to start with the end in mind. That is to say, this should be part of the established curriculum. If it isn't then interest and support will wane and/or evaporate when supporters move on.- mike.jamerson mike.jamerson Feb 1, 2014
  • Some uses for 3D in education are listed in this publication, starting on page 5. Parts for student designed robots, explore the physics of gears, construct parts for simple machines.
  • I find that price is less of an issue than it was previously. Under $3000 for a quality machine is not out of the reach for a program a District is looking to invest into. Having placed these in Middle School STEM labs, I can say the value is there. Students are drawn to the ability to hold an object they created in their hands, the software is easier than ever to use (heck Printcraft allows students to create in Mindcraft and print the object), and the machines seem to last through moderate to heavy load (using MakerBot 2). Still, it is going to take a few years for all but the most techie 1% of teachers to develop methods for utilizing in the classroom. At our High Schools the higher end models have been in place for years and are continually used. - digitalroberto digitalroberto Feb 3, 2014
  • Price on a quality machine is the only hold back. This is why I would not put it in the near future, but the future is coming. Someone today tweeted out a picture of 3D printers on a table right as you go into Office Max... they are on the verge of being mainstream. - mrskeeler mrskeeler Feb 1, 2014
[[http://www.cue.org/sites/cue.org/files/images/121013_OnCUE_W13_lorez-1.pdf- jmorrison jmorrison Jan 31, 2014]]
  • I agree with the crowd discussion - but I do believe that the version 2 and 3 of 3D printers will solve some of these initial hurdles, and i wouldn't count this out yet. I still believe this holds enormous potential for students trying to understand complex math problems in 3D, special needs students who need concrete learning manipulatives, and a host of other learning opportunities. Because there is growing adoption even of the early "clunky" machines, I think that this should stay on the list. - kstubbs kstubbs Feb 6, 2014
  • I agree with David and Mike when they talk about the quality of the printer. Our school just purchased a knockoff model “ FlashForge”, and we have run into many glitches. That being said, however, there is a place for 3D printing in every classroom. Latin students studying ancient Greece have just produced a 3D Parthenon. The students were taken through the steps of the Design Cycle Engineering Model. They had to investigate, plan, create and evaluate as they went though the process. These were not engineering or technology students. What a juxtaposition of old meets new! The printers use is limitless if the curriculum matched with the printed object is made relevant by the classroom teacher. The printer we purchased has had major problems, but it has forced students to do exactly what I wanted them to do. It forced them to fail and to rethink the process. Students used skills learned in math class such as ratio and proportion to plan out how they would print. They have tweaked and “retweaked” their model adapting it to the abilities of the printer. With our printer, they found that less is more. By removing the supports for the roof of their Parthenon and printing in two pieces they would have more of a chance for success. It makes students question, which is a good thing. I guarantee in forty years, students will be talking about the lesson on the ancient Parthenon because of this experience. The goal of relevance and connection to the real world in the K-12 classroom is made easy through a project such as this.There are the pre-made models out there as well, but there is no educational value in printing an existing model. There are programs out there that are simple to use ( I was able to figure it out quite quickly). My students liked https://tinkercad.com and http://www.makerbot.com/makerware/ . There is a place for 3D printers which should stay on the list. lisagustinelli- lisagustinelli lisagustinelli Feb 9, 2014
  • I have always been a fan of this technology, and recently had the opportunity to put it in classrooms. We are only a month in, but the buzz it has created is palpable. Students are dragging their parents in the classroom after school just to see the test pieces we have been making. We got our to be the centerpieces of a STEM initiative, and we have gotten so much good will out of them I can't imagine what will happen after we fully integrate them. They bring a new energy and fun that doesn't exist with a lot of other technologies.- alex.podchaski alex.podchaski Feb 9, 2014- giselle.santos giselle.santos Feb 10, 2014
  • - giselle.santos giselle.santos Feb 10, 2014I believe there is going to be a real demand for 3D printers in education as we start seeing more makerspaces and fab labs introduced in schools. 3D printers will add value to project based and creative process as it allows you to focus on the tangibilization of DYI projects and plans.MakerBot has just launched a plan for a printer in every school and is also providing training for the end users and that means teachers and students. http://www.makerbot.com/academy/

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Jan 27, 2014 Ability to do cross-curricular (interdisciplinary) instruction...Art, Math, etc. And the collaborative aspect...certainly the Makerspaces connection. - mrskeeler mrskeeler Feb 1, 2014I agree with David, makes for the ability to do cross curricular projects.- alex.podchaski alex.podchaski Feb 9, 2014 our biggest advocates aren't science but art and history. Cross-curricular need to be included in the description.
  • The next step is definitely the cross-curriculum application. This has dignificant potential to engage students. It will be important to recognize the cost of materials, though.- mike.jamerson mike.jamerson Feb 1, 2014
  • Engineering and embedding engineering in all classrooms disciplines. - mrskeeler mrskeeler Feb 1, 2014
  • Of course I agree about cross curricular. It's also important to note the design engineering model being used in the creation of the objects. Failure.......and relevance in learning lisagustinelli- lisagustinelli lisagustinelli Feb 9, 2014

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Jan 27, 2014 Covered in (1) above, I think.
  • To me the biggest thing holding back all schools having a 3D printer is the price. As this comes down... I think it will be rare not to see at least one at every school. The impact is helping to focus on STEM and the ability to make students projects and ideas a material object will increase motivation. - mrskeeler mrskeeler Feb 1, 2014
  • And time. 3D printers are SLOW when printing objects with any kind of usable definition.
  • And bandwidth. Viewing repositories of 3D images chews up an enormous amount of bandwidth. There's a real opportunity for the gigabit network folks like Internet2/US UCAN to expand the R&E network further into K-12.
  • Huge benefits for making abstract concepts - particularly in STEM areas - come alive. - kstubbs kstubbs Feb 6, 2014
  • Relevance is a big topic in education these days. The fact that students can see a tangible result of what they are learnig gives relevance to the process. Along with Robotics, 3D printing gives students the ability to see a project through from the idea stage to the creation stage. lisagustinelli- lisagustinelli lisagustinelli Feb 9, 2014
  • cannot agree more with all of the above- alex.podchaski alex.podchaski Feb 9, 2014

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Jan 27, 2014 Still trying to get it going. Again, hoping that the debut of the 3Doodler pen will rekindle interest...and open wallets. ;)
  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Feb 1, 2014 UPDATE! My 3Doodler pen (http://the3doodler.com/) has arrived. Already the talk of the campus, so next week should be interesting re: demos. Might have to break up some who-gets-to-use-it-first fights. This and the fact that I'm exchanging e-mails with school folks about my participation in the Horizon Report has the founder of the school talking to me about 3D printers! Maybe we can find some money somewhere! I'm looking at MakerBots, soon to be sold via Dell: http://www.zdnet.com/dell-to-start-reselling-makerbot-replicator-3d-printers-scanners-7000025634/

  • makerbots are great http://www.makerbot.com - but their repository at Thingiverse http://www.thingiverse.com is amazing.
  • The NSF has put a lot of money into a biological specimen digitization project called iDigBio (http://idigbio.org). Many of the specimens are being scanned in 3D and there is a big E&O push to have those specimens viewed/printed in K-12 school settings. This project has already spawned a successful spinoff involving California educators and Panama Canal fossil excavations. The teachers are learning to use the 3D rendered prints in their science teaching.
  • Come and see my classroom! Students have just completed the 3D Parthenon project. We have had major publishers come in to see it as well as our local news people. It's featured on the NAIS ( National Association of Independent Schools) website under "inspiration lab" http://inspirationlab.org/story/5080 lisagustinelli- lisagustinelli lisagustinelli Feb 9, 2014
  • We have some interesting projects in this area. We have deployed some of these printers in our education programs in our CAPS (www.bvcaps.org) program. We also have a couple of pilots of their use in our libraries. - GTDeYoung GTDeYoung Feb 9, 2014

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