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3D Printing In The Classroom

3D printing can add a new dimension to the classroom (pun intended).

While the technology is not yet "mature", you are now seeing 3D printers in office supply stores & Fry's Electronics. It's time to start looking at how this new medium can enhance your students engagement and understanding.

How 3D Printing Works

Dr. Martin Leary hosts this short, non-technical explanation of how 3D printing works and what you can do with it. While the printers come in many shapes, sizes, and prices(!), the basic concepts are the same.

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Managing a classroom 3D printer

This blog post talks about how one teacher manages one 3D printer and "lots" of things to print - 15 new items out of one class. Other posts on this blog talk about the benefits of bringing a 3D printer into your classroom and showcases student projects.

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Choosing a 3D Printer for the Classroom

Clarence Fisher starts by first asking why? Pedagogy and opportunity are the first questions to answer -- you need a solid plan before buying equipment. He then goes on to look at options and the reasons for his choices.

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3D Printing in the Classroom

Kathy Schrock has put together a comprehensive list of resources, lesson plans and additional videos related to 3D printing in the classroom.

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Amazing Bubble Wands

This collection of bubble wands can be printed and used for students of all ages. Younger students can have fun while learning about bubbles. Older students with access to a 3D printer can learn to create their own bubble wands.

Some of the questions covered in the included tutorial include...

  • What are bubbles?
  • Why are they only spheres?
  • Why do they pop?
  • Why do bubbles stick together?
  • Where do bubbles get their colors?
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Volume Blocks

Here's a two-part project, which can be taken on together or as separate parts. The main part is a series of 3D objects for use in learning and practicing volume equations. The second is a short course detailing how the objects were made so that students can make their own for use in class.

Combined, these make up a good primer for students in learning and understanding 3D space and engineering. The objects are provided in both Metric and Imperial units. The walk through, lesson plan and solutions are included as PDFs.

printing the frog

3D Printing Primer

Check out our extensive set of 3D Printer resources in the Tools area. Everything from selecting a printer to building your own to printing 3D maps.

The three basic 3D-printing processes

Bart Van der Scheuren, of the Belgian 3D printing company Materialise, does a good job of explaining how the three main 3D printing technologies work.

Fused-deposition modeling
uses an nozzle to lay down the part one-layer-at-a-time using plastic or other media
Laser sintering
uses a laser (or in some printers a fine spray of glue) to fuse powder into solid shapes
uses a laser is used to fuse a very special liquid into plastic.
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Printing A Bridge

What happens when you combine a 3D printer with an industrial robot? You get something that can print things like a pedestrian bridge. MX3D is working on a project that will do just that in Amsterdam.

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3D Printing Blog

Clark Barnett, an elementary school teacher, has an active blog on all things 3D printing.

Topics include 3D Printing In Space and In the Classroom, 3D Printed Microscopes Lesson Plan, Stop Motion Animation with 3D Printing, and 3D Printing in Third Grade.

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Open Book on "Low-cost 3D Printing for Science, Education and Sustainable Development"

This book gives a reasonable, first overview of current research (as of 2013) on 3D printing. It aims to inspire curiosity and understanding in young scholars and new generations of scientists to motivate them to start building up their own 3D printing experiences and to explore the huge potential this technology provides. Topics include...

  • A Practical Guide to Your First 3D Print
  • Plug-n-Play, Do-It-Yourself Kits and Pre-assembled 3D Printers
  • 3D Modeling with OpenSCAD
  • Low-cost 3D Printing for Science
  • Illustrating Mathematics using 3D Printers
  • Science and Art
  • Sources for 3D Models
  • Low-cost 3D Printing for Education
  • Using 3D Printers at School: My Experience
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Thingiverse is the go-to site for discovering, making, and sharing 3D printable things. They believe that everyone should be encouraged to print, create and remix 3D things. Most of the designs are licensed under a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone can use or alter them.

To get an idea of what you can do with 3D printing on the classroom, search for your favorite topic or words like map, music or education.

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Materials that Can Be 3D Printed at Home

When it comes to 3D printing and the materials that can currently be printed in a home or classroom environment, the range available might surprise you. Everything from plastic to nylon to ceramics to "wood". PLA plastic filament is a good choice for a classroom environment.

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Make Magazine: 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

There are new 3D printers coming to the market all the time. The right 3D Printer for you will depend on your class needs and your budget. And last year's recommendations are probably already obsolete. Make Magazine maintains a 3D Printer Buyer's Guide. They also have information on everything from software and 3D model sources to upcoming printer technology. Recommended by our webmaster.

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11 Food 3D Printers to Feed the Future

While most 3D printers today "print" with plastic, there is a lot of experimentation and new products that can print on other media. If you can push it out of a nozzle - think frosting, chocolate, cookie dough, & jelly - you can print with it. Check out these incredible and editable results.

Use the right stuff!

Our webmaster has found that using the right filament can make the difference between success and failure. Different printers work slightly differently, and filaments that work great in one printer will fail and jam miserably in another.

Always check with your manufacturer or printer's user group ... and use the recommended printing filament - even if it's more expensive - especially when first starting out.

Sources For Help

Not sure where to start? Check with your local Maker Space or university.

There are people in your area with 3D printers who would be glad to demonstrate them, and assist you in choosing the right one for your needs.

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