If you’re still wondering what the whole 3D printing ruckus is about, you’re not alone. 3D printing was mostly restricted to large R&D and industrial settings until the last few years, so precious few people had the opportunity to be exposed to it.
This was mostly due to the serious cost of 3D printing equipment. But since 3D printing equipment cost has been falling rapidly, the technology is now firmly in the mainstream and more people have a chance to see how it works.
Basically, a 3D printer is a device that “builds” models, usually a little at a time and in layers, in order to produce a three-dimensional object. In this way, it works kind of like an Ink Jet printer.
When you print using a normal printer (such as an Ink Jet), you’ll notice that the sheet of paper comes out one bit at a time. When the printer works, it uses its principal material (ink) a little at a time and one line at a time, in order to fully produce a page of printed copy.
In the same manner, a 3D printer uses some material (plastic, foam or metal) to construct a three-dimensional object. It creates the object by using a little material at a time (usually a fraction of an ounce) and one layer at a time.
Although there are many types of 3D printers around, the most common one used in educational settings is the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printer.
While it attained popularity through the laboratory, 3D printing is now making its way into the classroom, and for several good reasons. Here are 6 of them.
Open new possibilities for learning
3D printed objects themselves constitute valuable teaching aids. Research has proved that visual aids can improve students’ overall ability to learn. They can help bring curriculum to life and engage students in a way that was not possible until now. An obvious example involves art and history.
School lessons are replete with famous artworks, geographical locations and fascinating objects. However, school systems rarely have the funds to bring students within touching distance of these objects. Most schools have to make do with photographic reproductions. But using 3D printing, these objects can be reproduced right there in the classroom where children can engage with them and experience fully.
There are thousands of 3D scans of famous sculptures, geographical wonders and artworks available online. It is possible to use these scans to produce fantastically detailed replicas of these objects. The students will engage fully with the curriculum and learn much better. Plus, they’ll actually get to touch and fully experience the models, unlike museum visitors who are barely allowed to breath in the presence of most works.
Make learning hands-on
Apart from the visual impact that 3D printed objects can have on students’ learning, the process of 3D printing itself can produce a positive effect called active learning.
At its most basic, active learning is learning by doing. It is a process through which a student thoroughly learns a subject by developing skills associated with that subject. It is equivalent to teaching a student to drive with a car, rather than a textbook.
Compared to passive learning where students simply absorb information in class and through textbooks, it is obvious how much more beneficial active learning will be. When students are able to fully visualize and practice what they learn in class, they will learn in much better ways than can be imagined.
In this way, 3D design and printing provides the perfect vehicle for practical, inclusive education.
3D printing involves more than just turning on a printer and letting it run. Before printing, students need to know how to prepare a 3D computer aided design (CAD) model. To do this, they will need to be able to visualize and understand the mechanics of 3D printing.
While younger students and those with lower level skills can learn from a limitless number of existing 3D designs, students with higher skill levels will benefit a lot from going through the design process. They can be encouraged to put their imagination to work to design models of their own.
Teaching students the fundamentals of design will help them develop critical thinking skills. They will become better problem solvers and will revel in the knowledge that they can visualize things and bring them into existence.
Engage reluctant learners
Even with all its benefits, there’s one simple fact about 3D printing that will catch even the most reluctant learners: 3D printing is serious fun. Even the most school-shy learners will revel in the experience and fun of 3D printing.
Using the technology, history students can print not only historical artifacts but also full scale models of historical scenes. Imagine printing out a model of the Battle of Waterloo, complete with a tiny Napoleon. Biology students can use 3D technology to design and print pretty much anything including cells, viruses, organs, circulatory systems.
Faced with this incredible technology that provides a multi-functional bridge between ideas and reality, every student will learn, and have fun while at it. Research also shows that in schools where 3D printing was introduced, there was an appreciable increase in student engagement.
In addition to this, 94% of the students surveyed said they wanted to continue 3D designing after school.
Build crucial STEM skills
3D printing encourages the development of several skills that will be useful in the pursuit of a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions. This will be important because STEM professions are vital to the world we live in today. Apart from this, they are also the jobs that will most likely shape our future as humans.
Data from the Pew Research Center indicates that employment in STEM occupations has grown by 79% since 1990, increasing from 9.7 million to 17.3 million. Further data indicates that between 2017 and 2027, the available STEM jobs will grow by 13%, compared to non-STEM jobs which will only grow by 9%.
No matter how you view it, 3D printing will help prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow. Apart from the fact that they will learn skills that will help them pursue STEM occupations, their 3D printing skills will also stand them in good stead.
Forbes, quoting a Sculpteo study, confirms 3D printing is gradually entering into mainstream business. According to them, 70% of enterprises are finding new applications for 3D printing in 2019. In the automotive industry, 3 out of 4 major companies in Germany and the US are implementing 3D printing.
Help young students learn how to change the world
Finally, as a creative process, 3D printing perfectly teaches one lesson that every young student needs to learn: you have the power to change the world for good, no matter how young you are.
By developing ideas and seeing them come to reality, every young student can build confidence in their abilities and skills. They will come to truly believe in their abilities and also get started on learning the skills that will help them achieve their potentials.
So, if you have been on the fence about 3D design and printing before now, it’s time to tilt all the way into the camp of 3D tech. If you are wondering what a 3D printing curriculum will look like, there’s no need to worry. That’s something we can help you with at Kids Can CAD.
Our goal is to help children learn 21st century skills and become the best they can be. We show them the possibilities that await in the wonderful world of 3D technology while helping them develop crucial STEM skills along the way.
Do you have any questions about how 3D printing will help your child? Give us a call and let us show the possibilities!