The widespread applications of 3D printing are ever-increasing, with the latest advancements seeing the likes of 3D printed ovaries enabling mice to give birth to healthy pups[1]. It’s clear to see that 3D printing technology shows no sign of slowing and will continue to make its way into many industries.

 

It’s therefore no wonder that educational institutions are looking at how to implement this technology into the curriculum - not only to familiarise students with the technology in order to prepare them for future roles involving 3D printing - but also to use technology’s potential to enhance project-based learning which plays a critical role in STEM concepts. But whilst it’s clear to see why it’s important to integrate 3D printing in education, how beneficial is it for the users - both the students and the teachers?

 

Y Soft recently commissioned independent global research into the thinking and adoption of 3D printing in the education sector. Although it’s clear from the research that educators understand the value of 3D printing, more than a third (35%) of educators cited an understanding of what 3D printing can do in their curriculum as a challenge. It’s therefore important that those using the technology are aware of how best to use it in a

learning environment.

3D printing in education: A user’s perspective
So, what are the benefits of 3D printing to students and teachers?

 

Keeping students engaged has always - and will always be a challenge for teachers, but integrating 3D printing helps to bring lessons to life and encourages active engagement. It’s widely understood that engaged students absorb and retain information much better, meaning the teachers have a less disruptive environment and students learn more easily.

 

The active participation also encourages students to take more ownership of their learning and aids both the teacher in explaining complex topics, as well as helping the students to understand them. For example, when learning about the concepts behind wind turbines, which involves physics and maths, students can create a 3D digital model, print it on a 3D printer in order to study the construction, test its ability to generate wind energy and adjust accordingly. This enablement to adjust ideas through trial and error also incites a more creative and innovative learning space.

 

This is a form of discovery learning – a method of inquiry-based instruction that encourages involvement, heightens motivation and develops problem solving skills by tailoring the learning experience. As a result, students are more likely to remember the facts and lessons learned.

 

It’s clear to see that the benefits of incorporating 3D printing into the curriculum are extensive, but its implementation needs careful consideration as there are many factors which need to work together to realise these benefits. For example, the recent Y Soft research found that 87% of educational institutions with 3D printers restrict the access to the printers due to concerns about device security or cost control. Putting any barrier between the user and the technology leads to under-utilisation and mitigates positive outcomes of using 3D printing in the education.  

 

So, it is mainly a question of carefully choosing the right solution, which provides a hardware and software features that fit specific needs of given education institution. This way challenges connected to introducing brand new technology into education process can be easily prevented.

 

Importantly, educational institutions need to bring together the educators, IT teams and administrators and ensure that all are aware of the benefits of 3D printing, their involvement in its implementation and what is required from them in order to make it a sustained success.

 

Implementing 3D printing into classrooms is no mean feat but presents a complex process which involves important steps before and after purchasing the 3D printer itself – securing access to the technology, user trainings, defining how the technology will be used in specific subjects and others. But the effort is made worthwhile by providing the space for ideas to develop and make education more fun. When students are more engaged, their motivation for learning increases, the quality of teaching improves and results are boosted.

 

YSoft be3D eDee is the industry’s first 3D print solution that integrates print management and an accounting system with a 3D printer offering central control for a fleet of 3D printers. The 3D print management solution is based on Y Soft’s own YSoft SafeQ, a globally recognised workflow solutions platform used today on 2D printers in schools around the world.

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