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 computer-aided design (CAD), 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, using an inkjet-like process to spray a bonding agent onto a very thin layer of fixable powder, or an extrusion-like process using plastics and other flexible materials. 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 powders and bonding agents, color can be applied, and prototype 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.

INSTRUCTIONS: Enter your responses to the questions below. This is most easily done by moving your cursor to the end of the last item and pressing RETURN to create a new bullet point. Please include URLs whenever you can (full URLs will automatically be turned into hyperlinks; please type them out rather than using the linking tools in the toolbar).

Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - Larry Larry Feb 8, 2012

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

  • Knowing how to use this technology, just like using iMovie, InDesign, building apps, 3D printers offers students another skill set that is currently being used in many industries. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/science/11robots.html?_r=1 - michael.lambert michael.lambert Mar 1, 2013
  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Mar 2, 2013 Our Solidoodle (http://www.solidoodle.com/) 3D printer is due any day now. We'll be using it to expand CAD knowledge/skills beyond those already attained via Second Life and/or OpenSimulator. We hope this will be another inspiration re: kids going for STEM careers.
  • The production of goods using this technology leads to the focus on the development of design and programming as two emerging areas in which education will have to focus. - lmotta lmotta Mar 3, 2013
  • For me, this is perhaps the item on the list that will grow the most in relevance over the next ten years, but I think the five year timeframe is too short. These things need to get cheap enough to be available widely outside of schools first, and then seep their ways into schools. (Kind of like what I suspect will happen with the use of 'mobile phones' in formal education settings.) To the extent that 'design education' finds its way into curricula around the world, it will in no small part be enabled by low cost 3D printers. In the USA, the biggest related announcement so far has probably been related to the DARPA/NSF grant extedned to MAKE Magazine related to the introduction of makerspaces into a thousand or so classrooms. http://makerspace.com/press/darpa-mentor-award-to-bring-making-to-education Some schools in Finland are exploring how to introduce 'design education' (and related concepts) into high school instruction, somethign aided by the use of things like 3D printers. While to date 3D printing has been seen as most potentially relevant to so-called 'shop classes', extracurricular science fair activities, and courses like physics, I don't wonder if the place where their impact will first be felt in schools at scale will be in art classes. - mtrucano mtrucano Mar 4, 2013 I agree that the timeframe may be longer, especially in countries such as Brazil where this technology is not even widely available and there are no educational uses being reported yet. Maybe in some graduate or post-graduate courses (I haven't heard of any), but certainly not in K12. But it is a technology we are keeping our eyes on and would love to start using soon. There was a great presentation I saw at one of the NSTA conferences which showed the potential of using such a technology in a STEM activity simulating a space mission - http://www.edtech.ku.edu/resources/portfolio/examples/nets/Miller/www.air.org/forum/Thornburg.pdf. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Mar 5, 2013
  • - Gavin Gavin Mar 6, 2013If creativity continues to be viewed as increasingly important, then 3D printing has the potential to support that significantly, not least because takes design creativity to implementation...examples include http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmxjLpu2BvY - printing a bicycle. Not done in a school, but an example that might be followed~- oysteinjohannessen oysteinjohannessen
  • 3D printing has a great impact in various learning environments - e.g. science given the sue of 3d Printing to produce life-enhancing products such as magic arms.http://youtu.be/WoZ2BgPVtA0 - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Mar 5, 2013
  • 3D printing has a great influence in makerspaces in libraries and now in schools as well. It's an extension of very successful makerspaces, that includes makerbots and 3D printing e.g.
    http://makerspace.com/ - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Mar 5, 2013
  • 3D Printing pen could provide additional benefits for visual integration into the creative process, and moving further away from text activities. http://stephenslighthouse.com/2013/03/04/this-3d-printing-pen-lets-you-draw-sculptures-in-midair/ - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Mar 5, 2013
  • 3D printing needs to align to the makerspace concept - 3D printing is just one of the significant drivers in this. - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Mar 5, 2013 (@Judy OC--agreed! school and public libraries have long been makerspaces for K-12s - marcia.mardis marcia.mardis Mar 5, 2013)
  • 3D Printing was demonstrated in forensic anthropology to reconstruct a skull in a workshop offered by the University of São Paulo at the beginning of last year. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Mar 5, 2013
  • This is one of the technologies I'm surprised to hear teachers discussing. It seems that 3D printing is capturing the imagination of many teachers more so than other technologies on this list. For the last 7 years or so we've seen increasing adoption in grades 7-12 here in Career Tech Ed courses, but little else. However, the past year we've begun to see integration in libraries and greater discussion on incorporating into STEM labs. I think as the prices continue to drop 3D printing is going to make large inroads within K12 education, although it's probably just outside the 5 year window. - digitalroberto digitalroberto Mar 5, 2013 agreed! I am surprised a bit it is being discussed in K-12 more so than HiEd and Museums - Holly.Lu Holly.Lu Mar 6, 2013
  • I believe this is the beginning of the crossover between the "industrial arts" and the information age. With 3-D printing and the advent of digital design, "shop class" becomes relevant again, and no longer needs to be viewed as an alternative path for students who tend not to achieve in the regular classroom. Being able to see a design come to life helps bridge the classroom to the real world, and can be incorporated into any type of lesson. Imaging what student dioramas would look like if they could create the whole thing from digital images and plans.- alex.podchaski alex.podchaski Mar 7, 2013

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

  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Mar 2, 2013 One of our goals as an aspiring IB school is to implement cross-curricular -- interdisciplinary -- teaching/learning. Sounds great in theory, but not always easy in practice (http://www.maggiehosmcgrane.com/2010/02/transdisciplinary-interdisciplinary-and.html). A 3D printer will give us a jump start: everyone will want to use it...I'll make sure we combine subjects like Art and Technology using one unit and/or lesson planner.
  • The definition above seems to me to be very mechanistic, and somewhat vocational. What is missing, I think, is the 'maker' ethos, and the design perspective, that are often intertwined with calls for the introduction of 3D printers into educational settings. - mtrucano mtrucano Mar 4, 2013
  • The use of 3D printers should be seen as multi-disciplinary, and not just design and technology. It's all about making, creating and imagining (make your own undetectable gun or a body part are two examples I've come across - the mind begins to boggle!). There could be downsides, as always... - roger.blamire roger.blamire Mar 4, 2013
  • The focus should be on creative multi-disciplinary activities, and it's no more dangerous than the original "I can find out how to make a bomb on the internet" - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Mar 5, 2013
  • This is going to be the technology to bring maker spaces and K12 education together. Maker spaces need to be included when discussing this. - digitalroberto digitalroberto Mar 5, 2013- Holly.Lu Holly.Lu Mar 6, 2013- alex.podchaski alex.podchaski Mar 7, 2013
  • I agree that we need to describe this as a way to make tangible the intangible for many disciplines. While the care and feeding of the technology may belong to more technical departments, it really does need to be tied back into art curriculum, and can compliment any discipline where you can create.- alex.podchaski alex.podchaski Mar 7, 2013

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

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

Please share information about related projects in our Horizon K-12 Project form.