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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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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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7 benefits of using 3D printing technology in Education

This blog post from Makers Empire goes into detail on 7 good reasons for bringing 3D printing into the classroom:

  • Creating inventors
  • Bringing art back
  • Engaging reluctant learners
  • Creating responsible digital citizens
  • Making everything hands-on
  • Building school camaraderie
  • Solving real-world problems

Painting your 3D Prints with Sharpies

A teacher at a recent conference turned us on to this idea: Rather constantly changing color filament spools, they print everything in white PLA. They then let the students color their prints using permanent markers.

It save a lot of time and allows the students to be more creative, adding multiple colors per print. It's also cheaper than trying to stock 8-12 spools of different colored filament.

You might want to experiment with different types of markers. This video uses Sharpie oil based paint markers. Others suggest using regular Sharpie permanent markers or acrylic paint markers, which dry much faster.  Let us know what works best for you and we'll post it here.

We've heard that, if needed, a coat of clear varnish from a spray can can help prevent colors from smudging or wearing off.

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So You're a Teacher with a 3D Printer... Now What?

You now have a 3D printer for your school and you've finally figured out how to get it to work. Once you've successfully supplied your school with all the key chains, name tags, and Yoda heads they will ever need, there's a lot more you can do...

One option is creating a 3D Design Problem Bank, where adults (faculty, maintenance workers, parents, etc.) submit problems in need of a 3D designed solution and students from different grades and settings are given the chance to choose problems they want to solve. Working together, student and adult both play a role in defining the problem, brainstorming first steps, and generating gradually improved iterations of the 3D printed solution.

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Brookwood's 3D Design Problem Bank

Here's the actual site referred to in the "Now What?" article. Built using, a web site hosting service specializing in online shopping, this site allows adults (faculty, maintenance workers, parents, etc.) to submit real world problems and students to solve those problems using 3D design and printing.

Check out the "Create A Problem Bank" link where you can get some background on this site and how it benefits students; and where to find help to build your own Problem Bank site.

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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, Student Perspectives, 3D Printed Microscopes Lesson Plan, Stop Motion Animation with 3D Printing, and 3D Printing in Third Grade.

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Who Invented the 3D Printer?

3D printing has been heralded as the future of manufacturing. This post takes a quick look at explaining 3D printing, then takes an in depth look at who came up with the original ideas. It all started with UV light and vat of liquid photopolymer.

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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

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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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 "best" choice for a classroom environment.

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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.

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, assist you in choosing the right one for your needs, and help with things just aren't working.

Related Topics ...

Other Areas To Check Out ...

  ●  3D Printing Primer
  ●  Tools
  ●  Printing & 3D Slicer Software
  ●  Tuning your 3D Printer
  ●  Selecting A 3D Printer And Filament
  ●  Disaster Preparedness

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