Exciting Developments in Uses of 3D Printing in Education

by Alice Martin on May 26, 2013

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This fascinating emerging technology is finding its way into colleges, universities, and high schools and bringing powerful possibilities to teaching various disciplines.

The emergence of 3D printing has drawn the attention of different business sectors across the world. This high-tech printing method uses many additive layers compounded with each other to create the desired object. A primary driver behind its growing popularity is the ability to create certain constructs more proficiently and cost-effectively than making them by hand or using traditional manufacturing approaches. 3D printing is also making its way into educational institutions.

Before delving into many ways 3D printing is being used in education, you might want to take a look at the video clip below. This news piece provides a overview of 3D printing capabilities, including fascinating emerging capabilities with body parts, foods, and much more.

With the possibilities that 3D printing enables, and it’s still emerging status, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that a growing number of universities have procured printers and are using them in a variety of research projects, and as instructional tools. In addition to finding their way into higher education, high schools are using these devices as well.

Here are a few of the reasons 3D printing is attractive for academic applications:

  • 3D printing can be performed in the regular classroom well, i.e., during the lecture. 3D printers do not make much noise while composing an object. These printers are also clean, durable and don’t require intensive maintenance.
  • Students pursuing the fields of architecture, fine arts or biomedicine can benefit from this state-of-the-art technology. 3D printing uses Auto CAD (Computer Aided Design) software as a means for designing the objects to be printed. This designing software is widely used in these fields. With this technology students in these fields can further develop their understanding of objects and structures and create fully 3 dimensional versions of them.
  • Students pursuing engineering fields can learn a lot by developing prototypes. Students can easily assess their digital data by using a 3-dimentional object. In other words, students can give their digital data a physical appearance. This can help students to get productive feedback on the object.
  • 3D printers are relatively cost-effective and cost per printing of the objects can be manageable within an academic budget (some schools have even made these devices available for paid use, helping to offset costs).

How Schools Are Using Them
Let’s examine some real use cases, to better understand how these possibilities and advantages are being applied in schools.

  • Stratsys, a maker of 3D printers, shares dozens of education applications in case studies on their site, such as this one from the Advanced Competitive Science (ACS) Program for students in grades 10, 11 and 12 at Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in Minneapolis. Instructor Tim Jump explains, “I could talk to a student all day long about the importance of engineering design principles, but until they actually attempt to produce something on their own and encounter challenges and make mistakes, they won’t really be learning. With the Dimension 3D printer, students are better able to experiment with their design concepts and test their engineering visions, truly understanding why a part worked or why it didn’t. The printer has really changed the whole learning dynamic for my students.”
  • In this case study from Chico High School, IT teacher Mike Bruggeman’s Dimension 3D Printer now also serves as a design tool for local businesses. His students operate the printer and, “this arrangement has been such a success for his students and local businesses that Bruggeman and a fellow Chico High School instructor have hosted informational sessions for teachers where they share the value 3D printing has added to their curriculum … we believe in using 21st century technology in the classroom to best prepare students for success in the field of engineering,”
  • Purdue University’s “Ideas to Innovation Laboratory” has a several Objet 3D printers that is makes available to students and faculty in the school for projects. This page describes the technology and provides access to the project submission form (only credentialed Purdue users can access the form).
  • This Edudemic article provides a number of good instructional uses of 3D printing. For example, the Schools of Architecture and Design At Victoria University of Wellington held a 3D model workshop. The workshop features metalwork and woodwork machinery areas and a range of 3D digital fabrication and other modeling equipment. There is a main workshop for students in years two and above, and a dedicated workshop for all first-year students.
  • The University of Mary Washington hosts what they refer to as “The ThinkLab” – a space for hands-on creative inquiry and learning with a variety of high-tech tools, including a 3D printer. “In one project students used the 3D printer for prototyping, designing, and creating makeshift solutions to business problems.”

3-Dimensional printing is a revolutionary and innovative technology that can truly introduce new methods of learning and understanding concepts that traditional means can’t. As the costs of the devices continue to come down and their applications increase, there is no doubt that this is an emerging technology that will become more commonplace, and more valuable, in education.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
5 Ways Google Glass Can Be Used in Education
6 Higher Education Institutions Leading the way with Mobile Learning Apps
7 Ways Holographic Technology Will Make Learning More Fun

About 

Alice is an education technology writer, currently serving herself as a Manager of Academic Quality at Assignment Valley. She has a combined working experience as an academic consultant and research writer. In addition to managing her current projects, she also dabbles in scientific research, education tech, social media & digital trends as well.

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