How 3D printing is revolutionising the classroom

From printed prosthetics, to cars, planes and houses, to 3D printed food, there doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by without some mention of the incredible ways 3D printing technology has been applied to the ordinary for extraordinary effect. But it’s 3D printing in the classroom that is having some of the greatest effects on people’s lives as the next generation learns to shape and manipulate the technology to feed their creativity.

Historically, 3D printing has been out of reach for the general consumer, but so advanced are the latest developments that the technology is becoming more efficient and more affordable every day, meaning beginners need no longer invest their entire savings or school budget on a single 3D printer.

From providing teachers with three-dimensional visual aids for use in the classroom, to enhancing hands-on learning and interactive lessons, 3D printing technology offers endless possibilities for primary and secondary school pupils today and in the very near future.

Here are three reasons why 3D printing and education will continue to revolutionise each other in the future: 

Inspiring pupils: from consumers to creatorsImage removed.

The hands-on, interactive nature of 3D printing is changing the way children interact with technology. While a 3D scanner can be used to print an existing object from an online gallery, the learning process is greatest when children are tasked with creating a virtual design of the object they want to build, which can be made in a CAD or .stl file. In fact, we recently tasked 19 schools across the UK to do exactly this as part of a competition, resulting in some really innovative designs – 3D designing gives pupils the opportunity to express themselves and really is an unrivalled learning tool for primary and secondary schools.

Exposing pupils to the latest technology while they are young will undoubtedly help inspire more careers in IT and technology later on.

Supporting a balanced curriculum

The nature of 3D printing sees it fall under both the sciences and arts umbrella. The design process provides invaluable experience for budding designers and students interested in manufacturing careers, as well giving the whole class a wider education on the intricacies of the world’s latest technology.

You could even print parts of a skeleton or dissect a model of the heart in a biology lesson, or create a solar system featuring the eight largest planets in a physics lesson. 

Through its diverse range of uses and applications, a 3D printer provides teachers with the opportunity to apply interdisciplinary principles to their lesson plans and revolutionise the way they interact with their pupils.

A sound investment

In the industry, we hope to reach the stage very soon where everyone can afford their own 3D printer for the home, just as is the case with 2D printers. For students, this will allow them to take what they have learnt about the technology in the classroom and apply it in their revision at home, with the gentle whirr of the printer operating in the background.

With plug-and-play 3D printers now available for a fraction of what they once were, it is certainly a viable option for schools today. New research from Michigan Technological University has revealed that schools replacing commercially available lab equipment with items built via 3D printing technology could cut their costs by as much as 97 per cent. So it’s not just a case of printing learning tools, but schools will soon be able to use the machine as a one-stop-shop for all their equipment needs.

3D printing is making a huge impact on education, and there are initial government plans to put 3D printers into more schools across the UK. The technology holds massive potential for young people in education and schools are becoming increasingly interested in it, in order to put themselves on the map as a leading figure in educational technology. The main concerns still lie around the common barriers of access, funding, teacher awareness and user-confidence, but with the technology becoming more accessible and affordable by the day, the days of 3D printing forming a regular part of the day-to-day school curriculum are not far away.

By Simon Shen, CEO of 3D printing brand XYZprinting