Editor’s note: While 3D printing / additive manufacturing is gaining acceptance in industrial design applications, the use of these devices won’t really reach a tipping point for another five to ten more years. By 2020 we will see a high number of students who have used 3D printers throughout their education curriculum graduate and move into the workforce. Until then, today’s engineers can engage with students, helping them learn good design practices, and learning from them in return. Guest columnist Gaurav Sharma, Digital Marketing Consultant at CG Trader, a 3D Model Marketplace, and Founder of Digital Marketing Blog Attrock, discusses how 3D printing is affecting student education.
Like a computer on every desktop, 3D printers will reach every teacher and student, helping them with complex science, engineering and technology principles. 3D printer is a transformative tool, which is entering every field. It’s driving our economy, from core sciences like biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics to architecture, geography, automobile industry, cooking and the textile industry to name a few.
Tomorrow’s scientists, engineers, designers need the latest technology to build a better future for us. 3D printing provides an unconventional method to students, where they can visualize and analyze their work in the most effective manner. Earlier this year, we saw a digital design student making use of 3D printing to create his own set of clear aligners for just under $60, when a brand name set would have cost him thousands of dollars.
Around the same time, students at the University of California launched a rocket that had an engine printed entirely using 3D technology. NASA too has been working on implementing 3D printing technology to build their rockets. Yet these students have made history, as this was the first time a completely 3D-printed, student-made rocket has blasted off.
These are just a few examples of the endless ways in which 3D printing is already being used by students. The brilliant minds and unconventional ideas of today’s students, combined with the technology of 3D printers are already opening doors for the future of the sciences. 3D printers are yet to make a huge impact but it has ample opportunity to enter the education system, which ranges from primary schools to high schools to elite research institutes. Here are some of the ways in which 3D printing is changing the education system for the better:
- Benefits of using 3D Printing Technology to Teachers
3D printing provides numerous features that can revolutionize a standard classroom experience for both teachers and students. Most institutions are still nascent in adopting this innovative tool, but what is interesting are the future prospects. Foremost, the technology can be very effective in seizing the interest of students in a new subject matter. For example, a teacher can print a complex chemical bond or help students visualize a mathematical principle with ease, something that was not possible before with 2 dimensional pictures.
A 3-dimensional visual aid helps teachers explain a rather difficult-to-grasp concept or structure with relative ease. It also provides means for more interactive class room activities. It enhances learning by doing, providing a tool for hands-on experience on models. These models can be used in the fields of architecture, engineering, medical, aeronautics, geography and arts students.
- Benefits of 3D printings to Students
It is without doubt a revolutionary technology for teachers of all fields and scopes of study. Students, however, benefit the most from this new-age tool. First of all, 3D printing introduces the “Cool” factor in an otherwise boring subject matter. Students can fabricate their designs and test their models before their presentations.
After all, a 3-dimensional presentation is much easier to study and present before their peers than a conventional 2-dimensional drawing. Along with testing the feasibility of their ideas, 3D printing is an effective aid in evolution of new ideas, something that is impossible to do with usual methods.
3D printing can be integrated into just about any scope of study. Here are a few interesting examples where this tool can change the outlook towards learning:
- 3D Printing in Arts and Architecture
Art, Design and Architecture are fields where 3D printing is expected to have tremendous effects. The scope of this technology in fields dedicated to visual outputs is immeasurable. Designers can work on comprehensive projects globally, where they can share their 3D printable ideas across countries and then print their work to test the feasibility of their design in different landscapes. Complex building structures, new age art forms can be brought to life in classrooms before they are tested in the real world.
3D printing opens a brand new way for artists to create, which will help design technology reach its true potential in the future.
- 3D Printing in Humanities (History/Geography)
Geological formations, their scale and dimensions are best presented in a 3-dimensional format, helping students better understand geological forms. With the help of 3D printers, students can identify suitable landing spots for a shuttle, interpret earthquake data with increased precision and identify oil/mineral deposits, which are not conveyable by 2-dimensional images.
In the future, teachers or instructors could include a 3D printable file with each lesson or module scaling mountain ranges, canyons, rivers, for example, providing a fun educational experience for teachers and students alike. Scaling unknown landscapes, ocean beds or deep trenches with the help of 3D printable models will enable researchers to explore new territories with ease.
3D printing technology finds most usage in the subject of history, anthropology and paleontology. Ancient artifacts, scattered bones and historical structures can be studied without handling any of the delicate remains in person. A detailed scan of any artifact can be converted into a 3D printable file and handed to students. Missing pieces can be grafted into 3D models and just like putting a puzzle together; students can discover hidden facts from our past. With the access of 3D printers in every classroom, students will have access to a museum every day as 3D printed replicas are often indistinguishable from their original counterparts.
- 3D Printing for Science students
Mathematical concepts are by far most difficult to grasp without the help of a visual representation. Most students find it extremely difficult to understand a concept with only numbers and equations
put on paper. 3D printers can print models and tangents, thus representing the same formulas and equation in an easy-to-understand visual format. Even for researchers, 3D printers provide them with a tool to test their ideas and the feasibility of new formulas in nature.
Several organizations have made an attempt to encourage the use of 3D printing in teaching engineering. NASA encourages engineering students to put their thoughts and ideas into something practical. Last year, it even challenged students to design 3D space containers. Organizations like Future Engineers also encourage engineers and 3D designers to volunteer and mentor students to help them transform their ideas into 3D models.
For medical students, 3D printing technology is nothing less than a miracle. It has endless uses – from preclinical testing of devices, innovation of new medical tools, surgical demonstrations, clinical training and hands-on experience with different body part replicas, The most interesting application of this tool, however, is in the study of prosthetics and bionics. Since, 3D printers can print a model with a variety of materials ranging from plastic, rubber, etc; printers can help students explore innovative ideas to help improve patients’ lives.
There many more examples which are beyond the scope of this article. As we can see, 3D printing can truly change the class-room experience in the future. All we need to do is embrace this fascinating new technology and provide students and researchers with the most advanced technology to aid their study.
Gaurav Sharma is a Digital Marketing Consultant at CG Trader, a 3D Model Marketplace, Founder of Digital Marketing Blog Attrock and a Technology lover. He has been featured on Tech Crunch, Search Engine Land and any popular Tech and Marketing blogs. You can check him out on Instagram, Twitter and Google+.