This is part of a series of posts that talks about a few things that schools could invest in to improve and enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math’s) Education. They each contribute to the bigger picture of making schools challenging, fun, exciting and desirable places to be.
In this post I want to talk about 3D Printing...
Now in recent times 3D printing has been given a very bad press – mainly because someone went and printed a fully working gun and then published the plans on the Internet. The plans were downloaded over 100, 000 times before they were removed (but of course most people know it is almost impossible to delete anything from the Internet). Despite this reckless, un-thought through and immoral act - 3D Printing is actually a very, very cool thing. Particularly when you use it as an output for creativity and for making purposeful objects rather than weapons.
I first started talking about the potential of 3D printing back in 2009 / 2010 and we even stuck a few 3D printers in schools on trial projects when I was back working for Learning and Teaching Scotland.
According to Wikipedia:
“3D printing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes.3D printing is considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which mostly rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling (subtractive processes).”
Over the last five years 3D printers have grown in popularity aided by their use in popular culture – for example James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 that reappeared in the recent Skyfall Movie. As a result the cost of a good 3D Printer is now affordable to most schools and you can get a good one for under £1000. We have one in the Science Department at Grantown Grammar School that was funded by STEM Scotland and they were introduced to most Aberdeenshire Secondary Schools a few years ago.
There are lots of ways that 3D printing can be used in schools. Teach Thought suggests these ten as a stimulus to get you thinking:
- Engineering design students can print out prototypes
- Architecture students can print out 3D models of designs
- History classes can print out historical artefacts for examination
- Graphic Design students can print out 3D versions of their artwork
- Geography students can print out topography, demographic, or population maps
- Cooking students can create moulds for food products
- Automotive students can print out replacement parts or modified examples of existing parts for testing
- Chemistry students can print out 3D models of molecules
- Biology students can print out cells, viruses, organs, and other critical biological artefacts
- Math students can print out “problems” to solve in their own learning spaces, from scale models to city infrastructural design challenges
Of course, the actual application of 3D printing is far more disruptive than the tasks and activities suggested above.
3D printing is already revolutionising the confectionary and cake industry because of 3D Printing with chocolate.
Edinburgh scientists have also used 3D printing to produce stem cells in a technology that could completely revolutionise the medical industry over time.
Then of course there is Markus Kayser’s Solar Sinter Project that uses 3D printing technology that runs completely of solar power and prints glass models (and other things) using sand as its only material.
In short, we are only just starting to see how 3D Printing Technology is going to have a significant impact on how we live, work and play. They have even opened a large MakerBot 3D printing factory opens in New York and it will only be a matter of time before you can get anything printed from your local 3D printer store (and eventually from your home). With this in mind it is also worth considering that intellectual property will indeed become the ‘oil’ of the 21st Century.
So, isn’t it about time we started to use this technology or at least teach some of the ethical issues surrounding 3D Printing in schools?
If you’re interested in how you can link 3D printing to the curriculum then this is a great place to start - http://curriculum.makerbot.com