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The Benefits of 3D Printing in Education

For many people living in this generation, subjects in school were not very – visual. Math problems and science experiments were done using textbooks, practising problems and the occasional science experiment (gone wrong). Schools and other education facilities involved problems that were often impractical. But recently technology has started to help matters. From calculators to computer-aided design, we could do problems beyond our simple capabilities. Now with the introduction of 3D printers and filament extrusion in the education environment, we are starting to improve how scholars interact with the world around them.

What Took So Long?

Planning the next big idea is now much easier. Image via Unsplash

It wasn’t until recently that 3D printers became more obvious in school and universities. The main cause for this is that pricing structures are now more affordable. Luckily there are companies out there trying to solve this problem.

Take for example Airworlf 3D, who want their AXIOM 3D printer used in schools as much as possible. This is thanks to its low cost and ease of use. What is great is that the printer is being used in schools all over the world. M.I.T., USC Roski School of Fine Arts, Cerritos College,  Florida State University, Jenkins Middle School (CO), and Huntington Beach High Schools (CA) are to name a few. Next is the Makerbot Academy, a project to help get a 3D printer into every US school.

Another cost to overcome is the price of the filament for the 3D printers. Most companies are trying to find cheap ways for schools to get filament, but it is not always easy. Here at 3devo we are trying to make redoing prints more accessible. Thanks to the NEXT and now the new SHR3D IT, schools would be able to shred prints and create new filament at the end of the day or week. This in turn reduces long-term spending.

A few years ago, price may have been a barrier for education facilities, but this is no longer the case. Thanks to reduced printer costs and faster adoption rates around the world, it is now easier for schools to afford 3D printers. But does having a printer in every class benefit the students, both young and old?

Make Learning Fun Again

Additive Manufacturing – the classes you’ll never skip

If you can think back to your school days, most of you would have had that one crazy science teacher, trying his or her best to make classes fun and enjoyable. In this process, you also tended to learn a lot too. The only issue, besides many safety violations, is practical experiments were often very limited. Subjects such as geography or mathematics would use textbooks. This drops the fun that could be available using real-life examples. 3D printing is trying to change this perception. In doing so, many benefits follow the introduction of 3D printing into STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics).

See It To Believe It

The first benefit – able to see an idea become reality. Quite often, learning about a subject would entail many drawings in a book, maybe a video if you are lucky. But it is not always easy to understand what something looks like. For example, learning about how the Earth’s tectonic plates move around and create earthquakes. Illustrations help, but actually creating physical objects to show students can help put it all into perspective. Using a printer, explaining complex systems is easy and kids will understand how common technologies interact with each other. Our world and how we interact with it isn’t all black and white. Students are realising that they are no longer limited to visualising complex topics, now they can feel and touch it too.

Maths And Engineering Now Play A Real Role

There are many times during math and engineering classes where students question whether or not a certain equation will be of any use. Well, in 3D printing, an object first needs to be designed in some type of CAD software. This often requires someone to have a fair bit of math knowledge to understand everything. It forces the student to use the knowledge they have learnt in maths and engineering subjects and apply them to a project. On the other side, students can replicate a problem or project they are busy with to help get clearer understanding of the problem as a whole.

Students Become The Creator

an Image showing several objects made with PPSF plastic

As the saying goes, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. The same is applied in education. From the previous point, making use of a 3D printer in a classroom means that the students can now be in charge to what the outcome of a problem. Students will have the opportunity to create their own objects, helping to boost their creativity. Also with the help of products such as filament extruders, students can now test out different materials for different results. This can result in unexpected successes and failures. Both of which can help contribute to a student’s progress in learning a particular topic or subject.

Reducing On-Screen Time

The introduction of internet was immense in education. It turned a culture from saying, “I guess we’ll never know to answer to that question” to “Just Google it”. Students can learning an extraordinary amount of new topics on the internet with ease. However, that ease leads to an increase on how long the child spends on the computer, i.e. an increase of on-screen time. The introduction of 3D printers means that children will become more interactive with something physical as opposed to something on the computer. Parents concerned about their child’s health, as glued to computer screen all day can lead to headaches and eyestrain. 3D-learning is a way to let kids use their imaginations to build or assemble collections of 3D printable objects that will keep them engaged in the real world and learning too.

What Subjects Can Benefit From 3D Printing and How

A 3D Printed Mini Help Canal House by Local Makers
A 3D Printed Mini Help Canal House by Local Makers
  • Mathematics – Math students can print out “problems” to solve in their own learning spaces, from scale models to city infrastructural design challenges.
  • Geography – Raw data can now be turned into objects to help with: population growth, erosion effects or even how mountains are formed. Production of topography, demographic, or population maps in 3D is changing the way students are learning geography.
  • History – Fossils and other artifacts can now be printed. This allows students to explore and understand the past in a real and more concrete way. These replicas can be manipulated more easily than precious archaeological artifacts and produced at reasonable costs.
  • Biology / Chemistry – Students can print out 3D models of molecules, cells, viruses, organs, and other critical biological artifacts. The 3D printed reproduction allows the pupils, especially the most kinesthetic of them, to understand a process or how it works.
  • Architecture – Most of architectural sketches and mock-ups are now designed with specialized CAD-software. This allows students to materialize their ideas. This can save hours on creating a study mockup and therefore save time to redo and improve their idea.
  • Design – Design programs are based on sketching and then producing these ideas in a design studio or lab. This is to get the whole process from a sketch to a final product. Design teachers have often stated that the development of CAD programs or 3D modelling software are not always the best. This is because it will lead to students spending more time in the virtual environment than learning from the studio and from practical workshops.

The Future of 3D Printing in Education

It is easy to see how 3D printing and filament extrusion will benefit the education sector. Students will start enjoying their subjects more often. 3D printing as a whole will become more mainstream and better adopted. When combining these two, it will lead to a society advancing its technology and problem solving. In the next five to ten years, students will be looking back at 3D printers the way we looked at calculators at school, except with a smile knowing that he or she is about to turn an idea into reality.