3d printing technology has been around for about three decades and although its growth was slower in the initial stages, it has experienced tremendous growth in the past decade.
From printing customized prosthetic limbs to printing houses, the technology is currently being used in various aspects of our lives.
Industries globally are currently integrating or employing the use of 3d printing technology in their activities to facilitate processes and make their jobs easier.
The technology is now not just being used to fabricate objects made from rubber but also wooden objects and metal as well.
Although the technology has its limitation as a means of mass production at present, it has revolutionized development, design, prototyping, and replacement parts.
It is expected that 3d printing technology would become a household product within the next few years as the technology continues to advance.
With such a wide range of uses, it’s no wonder more and more educational institutions are seeing the benefits of 3d printing in education and are integrating it into their curriculum.
After all, learners need to be ready for a job market that is being revolutionized with 3d printing technology.
With the advancements in technology and competition, the cost associated with acquiring a 3d printer for your school has decreased tremendously.
This has made it possible for schools to integrate this technology into their curriculum even from the basic level to the tertiary level.
What is 3D printing in education
3d printing in education or additive manufacturing in education involves leveraging 3d printing technology to create three-dimensional models from designs to aid in the education process of learners of all ages.
This includes using 3d printing technology in arts, mathematics, science, architecture, engineering, and many more.
Benefits of 3d printing in education
Enhances learner engagement
Imagine having the power to create things customized to your lesson in the classroom without the need to go to a manufacturer each time to present your specifications.
No need to Google an object to show it on your interactive display in the classroom anymore.
With 3d printing, demonstrating an object to learners especially at the basic level can easily be accomplished to provide a tangible object learners can interact with in class.
This enables learners to hold onto something tangible which illustrates the subject matter.
With a great community and tons of designs available online for free, teachers can easily print any object of their choosing to provide their learners with a product they can interact with, in the classroom.
The teacher can then demonstrate how a simple object works in front of learners who physically see and experience this process.
This makes the class more engaging and learners can absorb information faster from this practical experience.
Example: A class about the parts of dinosaurs doesn’t need to be a boring class that ends with a possible field trip to a museum, once a year. The teacher can print these separate dinosaur parts for learners to see and interact with easily.
Example: Teaching a topic on evolutionary biology doesn’t need to be limited to images on screen anymore. Instructors can download scanned collections of fossils which can then be printed to provide a tangible set of the evolutionary phases of the human skull.
Some learners also who otherwise would be uninterested in class, tend to gravitate towards the 3d printer at work and the creation process.
Sparks learners creativity
Fostering creativity at a younger age empowers learners to be confident and innovative.
The advancements in technology and any other aspects of our lives have all been due to the imagination of people.
Nurturing imagination at a young age ensures that learners are able to imagine, create and modify any objects or creations they can think about.
Kids at a young age start developing their creativity. What if some of these simple designs they imagine can be translated into something physical that they can interact with.
This opens up a new world of possibilities to them, limitations fall off and they begin to understand and appreciate the creative process.
Shapes and geometry don’t need to be abstract lines on paper, but physical objects they can interact with and learn faster as a result.
Classes like engineering also benefit from the use of 3d printing technology as they can create their own parts and assemble them easily with the use of this technology.
Enhance problem-solving skills
Learners who previously accepted certain devices as they were are now able to work on improving them knowing that their final product can be brought to fruition or made a reality.
I’m sure most of us have used an object or something we felt was poorly designed, but we couldn’t do much about it so we proceeded to use it.
With 3d technology, learners can pick up such challenges, modify or redesign them to suit their needs, and test the end result out with a 3d printed copy.
Easy project prototyping
Art, architecture, and engineering students are able to use the 3d printer to easily create a prototype of their projects for timely delivery at a fraction of the cost.
This also makes it possible for learners to go through various iterations of their end result to ascertain the best end product to present.
It allows learners to easily turn their visions into reality. Whether you’re printing architectural pieces or engineering pieces for prototyping, a 3d printer facilitates the process.
Equips learners with skills for the future
With the growth of 3d printing technology and its adoption by multiple industries worldwide, it is almost certain that the technology is here to stay.
This means the skills required to operate this technology in various industries will be in demand.
Therefore ensuring that learners are equipped with these skills will open doors of opportunities for them in their respective industries.
3d printed resources for teachers
Here are some 3d printing resources and models for teachers to use in their classrooms. Find 3d models that can be downloaded and printed to aid demonstrations in your classrooms.
This virtual lab showcases a spectacular collection of fossils and artifacts found mostly at Lake Turkana in East Africa.
The digital collection of animals, human ancestors, as well as ancient stone tools offers a unique tool for scholars and enthusiasts to explore and interact with the collection online.
It also provides an opportunity to download models for 3-D printing as well as to comment and share images of your favorite printed fossil objects on our forum.
Content: Find fossils for evolutionary biology or any lessons that require demonstration of fossils
The 3D Program is a small group of technologists working within the Smithsonian Institution Digitization Program Office.
They focus on developing solutions to further the Smithsonian’s mission of “the increase and diffusion of knowledge” through the use of three-dimensional capture technology, analysis tools, and our distribution platform.
Content: Find a collection of many of the Smithsonian’s well-known items
Thingiverse is a website dedicated to the sharing of user-created digital design files.
Providing primarily free, open-source hardware designs licensed under the GNU General Public License or Creative Commons licenses, the site allows contributors to select a user license type for the designs that they share
Content: Find solid models created and uploaded by individuals that can be used in your classrooms
YouMagine is an online community of 3D printing enthusiasts who wish to work together to share, remix and make better 3D printed things.
YouMagine facilitates this community, empowers and gives you the tools you need in order to improve, invent & make.
Uniquely YouMagine is primarily a vehicle for supporting open source creation and wants to be a force multiplier for the entire 3D printing community.
Uniquely we are focused on building the entire end to end open source software toolchain to make things malleable.
Content: Find 18k+ free and open repository of design files to download for 3d printing
3D printing technology is advancing at a rapid pace, but it is difficult to find or create 3D-printable models that are scientifically accurate or medically applicable.
The NIH 3D Print Exchange provides models in formats that are readily compatible with 3D printers, and offers a unique set of tools to create and share 3D-printable models related to biomedical science.
Content: Find a database of models for your biomedical science class
Here you’ll find a growing collection of 3D models, textures, and images from inside NASA. All of these resources are free to download and use
Content: Free 3d models, images, textures, and visualizations from NASA
The SenseLab Project is a long-term effort to build integrated, multidisciplinary models of neurons and neural systems.
It was founded in 1993 as part of the original Human Brain Project, which began the development of neuroinformatics tools in support of neuroscience research.
The SenseLab project involves novel informatics approaches to constructing databases and database tools for collecting and analyzing neuroscience information, using the olfactory system as a model, with extension to other brain systems.
Content: Find a database of models for biology lessons (currently only neuronal and olfactory databases)
Our stories anchor a variety of classroom resources based on peer-reviewed science.
From data-rich activities and case studies to high-quality videos and interactive media, our resources are designed to connect students to big ideas in biology, promote engagement with science practices, and instill awe and wonder about the living world.
Content: Find a database of 3d models for science-related courses
The Bottom Line
3d technology has been around and growing at an exponential rate. Industries worldwide are currently adopting this technology to facilitate their processes.
With the benefits, it comes with, it’s no surprise that the education industry has already adopted the technology and started to integrate it into various curriculums.
Even as the technology continues to grow, it is our responsibility as teachers to educate parents and learners on its importance and its usefulness.