Why have 3D printers in the classroom?

Why have 3D printers in the classroom?

“3D printing allows for more authentic exploration of objects that may not be readily available to education institutions, including animal anatomies and toxic materials. The exploration of 3D printing, from design to production, as well as demonstrations and participatory access, can open up new possibilities for learning activities.”

Children love to explore and try new things, but many are afraid to try, they are scared of failure. 3D printing removes that fear, instead it embodies them with confidence to venture into the unknown. Additive manufacturing has existed for an excess of 25 years, but is still an emerging technology in the classroom. Educators and students a like an exploring the different ways that 3D printers can influence and enhance the learning in the classroom.

 3D printing in education is unique compared to other technologies. The mindset of the student becomes one where it is okay to fail and encourages experimentation in their learning.

A report released by the NMC  Horizon Project highlighted that 3D printing will have a massive impact on education, particularity in the STEM areas in the next 3-5 years. Combined with an ‘Internet of things’ children of today will have powerful tools to solve the problems of tomorrow. With the removal of failure as a fear holding them back, students will be able to reach new levels of thinking and problem solving.

“Typically, students are not allowed to handle fragile objects like fossils and artifacts; 3D printing shows promise as a rapid prototyping and production tool, providing users with the ability to touch, hold, and even take home an accurate model.”

A great example of this is GB3D Type Fossils (http://www.3d-fossils.ac.uk/), a free collection of fossils from British museums that anyone can download and print. Sight and touch are powerful senses. Giving students the ability to hold and see the fossils can aid understanding and appreciation for the past.

The iterative process inherent with 3D printers encourages making improvements are flaws and weaknesses are found. Online communities work together in this way, someone creates a model to solve a problem then when they upload it any number of people can view it and offer their suggestions for improvement. In the same way students can use this ‘Internet of things’ to find solutions that are similar to their problems, download and modify them for the particular issue they are aiming to address. Much like that of open source software.

Give your students the power to challenge the world.


Dale Nicholls

Dale has been involved in the 3D printing industry for over three years. He has a keen interest in technology having been involved in the tech sector for over 8 years.