3D Printing and Education

3D printing has been the recent technological craze of the past two years. And it is rightfully deserved, as 3D printing can solve the problems of mass production that ail us all. Shoes don’t fit you right? Print out a better insole. This kind of printing is available to higher-end companies in a variety of industries that need to model functioning products before their launches. However, the biggest boost that this technology has received has been its introduction to the home and consumer market. And guess what? The objects that it prints can be completely functional when designed correctly and printed with the right materials. Food? That will happen too. Need another fingertip? Organs for medical patients can be printed as well. Sounds unbelievable? Take a look at the video below to see how this process works.

Well, that is what the technology promises. Right now 3D printers can print in sugar, cells, plastic, and metal. But most print in plastic. For the right price. 3D printers start from around $2000, with separate bills for plastic, so it isn’t exactly the most affordable piece of technology. Eventually it will become more affordable and functional, and then be a staple of everyone’s life including the educational field. Right now, the amount of publicly available files are less than optimal to say the least. Then there are ethical dilemmas, i.e. should one be allowed to 3D print weapons, although I’m sure these would be curtailed in an educational setting. After all, a comparison to social media can also be made. Schools that shun social media cannot truly eschew social media on its students. Once those students come home, they are enveloped in a world where social media is inescapable. Incorporating social media into schools allows educators to teach students on how to properly take advantage of social media. Just like that 3D printing has its benefits and its problems, but shunning the technology all together is just as bad of an idea. Especially because the technology has already permeated into the commercial and business world and its permeating into the user market. It is simply inescapable.

APPS. How could we forget about apps? There are a plethora of apps available to aide in 3D printing. These apps can help you create three dimensional designs of models to print.

But what can it do right now? Need some anatomical models for anatomy or atomic models for chemistry? No big deal. Obviously a huge appeal of 3D printing is to be able to customize physical objects for physical interaction.

3D printing further enables students to transform into powerful creators. Here is what 3D printing enables in education:

  • 3D visual aids

  • Capture the interests of students

  • Learning by doing

  • Interactive class activities

There are also many communities around 3D printing like Thingiverse for example. Thingiverse is a diverse community of thousands of user with MakerBot 3D printers. Users can discover, share, download, and print 3D models.

For further information on how 3D printing can impact education, check out here, here, and here. If you want to model things in 3D, check out SketchUp.

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