How to Use 3D Printing in Education

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing have firmly established themselves in industry, from consumer goods to aerospace applications. But the technology isn’t just for commercial use — 3D printing in education is becoming more and more common. The old adage states …

Ile Kauppila

October 20, 2021

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing have firmly established themselves in industry, from consumer goods to aerospace applications. But the technology isn’t just for commercial use — 3D printing in education is becoming more and more common.

The old adage states that if you want to become good at something, you have to start young. Additive manufacturing’s importance is growing at a rapid pace. Therefore, it’s crucial that we start teaching future 3D printing professionals already at an early age.

This blog tells you the basics of how educators use 3D printing and what its benefits are. We’ll also give few tips on how you can bring 3D printing into your classroom or lecture hall.

How Educators Use 3D Printing

How educators implement 3D printing depends on several factors. These include available funding, the curriculum, and how familiar the teachers are with additive manufacturing.

The main consideration, however, is the specific education level. After all, primary school pupils will require a different approach than university students.

In general, 3D printing in education gives students and pupils hands-on experience with an increasingly significant manufacturing technology. 3D printing offers them practical challenges that teachers have applied to almost every subject, including art, STEM, medicine, history, and more.

It also prepares students for future jobs. The ongoing shortage of skilled workers could result in up to two million jobs in AM over the next decade.

In primary schools (ages 5-10), teachers can start introducing the basics of 3D printing to pupils, and help them develop their abstract thinking skills by demonstrating how an object goes from a two-dimensional sketch to a physical prototype. Teachers can also 3D print physical models to demonstrate complex concepts, like the Archimedes screw, to pupils.

Students in secondary education (aged 11-18) can begin tackling more complicated concepts, such as operating the printers themselves under teacher supervision. They can also start learning about different printing technologies, like SLA vs. SLS. You can let students design their own products as group projects to help them better grasp the design for additive manufacturing process.

On the university level, students should learn the in-depth details of 3D printing — particularly engineering students. Full-scale 3D printing projects, such as those supported by NASA, allow students to start thinking about additive manufacturing as the complex production method it is. 3D printing projects can also help students learn cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Loughborough University Ultimaker 3D Printers

Benefits of 3D Printing in Education

Learning 3D printing benefits pupils and students in many ways. As mentioned above, it prepares them for the future job market, but there are also many other advantages. 3D printing can:

  • Improve problem-solving skills: Creating a 3D printed object is a puzzle that develops students’ abstract, mechanical, and troubleshooting abilities. They get to put these skills into practice when designing their prototypes and determining the best way to print them.
  • Develop creativity: 3D printing is a unique manufacturing method that enables students to produce complex, intricate objects. It allows them to experiment with the technology and push their creativity in directions that have simply not been possible before.
  • Build excitement: Particularly to a young student, 3D printing might seem like something out of science fiction. 3D printing in education gets students excited about the technologies of the future and keeps them engaged in the learning process.
  • Offer practical examples: It’s easier to learn complex concepts when you have something tangible to look at, instead relying only on abstract theory. For example, 3D printing helped Turkish dentistry students study human teeth through 3D printed models.
  • Support general education: 3D printing offers many options for improving learning even in subjects that aren’t directly related to it. For example, models of ancient artefacts or cities can help history students, while chemistry or biology students could study detailed representations of molecules or cell structures.
Aviation students at Inholland University used Ultimaker 3D Printer to design and print rocket.

The Future Outlook

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing are already in active use in many school, educational institutions, libraries, and museums. However, the significance of 3D printing in education will only grow in the future, supported by national governments worldwide.

In the UK, for example, 3D printing in education features in the Additive Manufacturing National Strategy 2018-25. Developed by AM UK, the plan aims to establish the UK as a leading player in additive manufacturing.

“Additive manufacturing can make a real change in the UK and we will be devising the training and education programmes needed to provide the additive manufacturing engineers of the future,” said AM UK chairman Dr. Paul Unwin.

Singapore is also boosting 3D printing in education. As part of the Applied Learning Programme, the country aims to have a 3D printer in each of its primary schools.

As additive manufacturing and 3D printing gain a stronger foothold in the industry and develop as technologies, it only makes sense that authorities are putting more emphasis on 3D printing in education. In the future, we’re most likely to see a growing number of schools with at least one 3D printer.

How to Choose a 3D Printer for Education

Choosing a 3D printer for education can be far from a simple task. Many additive manufacturing technologies on the market are simply not designed for small classrooms. Schools also often unfortunately have to consider their limited budgets.

FFF, also known as FDM, is the most popular 3D printing technology, and as such also commonly found in schools. FFF printers, such as Ultimaker S2+ Connect or Markforged Onyx One, are affordable and easy-to-use options for interested teachers. These printers work by building the printed object out of melted plastic or nylon filament.

Desktop-sized SLA printers, like Formlabs Form 3, are another popular alternative. SLA printers use resins, which they harden into a solid object with a powerful laser. They can provide fast printing speeds and high detail, which many educators find attractive.

In the end, your printer choice will depend on your particular circumstances. Consider your school, budget, curriculum, and how you’re planning to use the printer.

Where to Learn More

Professional 3D printing service companies, like SolidPrint3D, will be happy to help teachers bring 3D printing into their classrooms. Many printer manufacturers, such as Markforged and Ultimaker, also offer educators and schools support materials, lesson plans, and discounts for implementing 3D printing.

You can also contact schools that have already started using 3D printers to learn about their experiences. Other good sources of further information are education ministries and 3D printing trade organisations.

3D printing in education is here to stay, and it helps students study and learn in many different ways. With additive manufacturing’s growing importance, it’s a great time for teachers and educators to start harnessing this ground-breaking technology.

Our team at SolidPrint3D is happy to tell you more about 3D printing in education. Call us on 01926 333 777 or email us at info@solidprint3d.co.uk.

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