3D Printing Comes to the Classroom

When I was in school, shop classes consisted of making a toolbox in metal shop, a puzzle in wood shop, and return address printed envelopes in print shop. Yes, print shop with type keys.

Today, many students are introduced to CAD and PLM software as young as 12, and it doesn’t stop there. As 3D printing technology becomes more readily available and less expensive, school kids are beginning to dabble in this too.

Poland and Hong Kong based GADGETS3D has introduced the small-sized, low-cost RepRap G3D, especially designed for schools, small businesses and individual customers.

Next month, GADGETS3D will launch its “3D Printer in Every School” project.

As part of the project any school can buy a RepRap G3D for $245 as part of an educational kit. GADGETS3D also plans to supply more than 500 schools around the world with a free printer.

Want to assign homework? No problem. Students will soon be able to connect to their school’s 3D printer from home using their smartphone.

Gerhard de Clercq and Pieter Sholtz—two 15-year-old South Africans working from a home-built RepRap 3D printer—recently wrote a Windows mobile phone app to let users print from a mobile phone.

Using that app, the students managed to 3D print a Nokia Lumia 820 case from a Nokia Lumia 920. The case’s 3D model was sent via Bluetooth. The app sliced the model on the phone and sent the command directly to the printer.

The intention of this project wasn’t just to print off a cell phone case and collect a class grade. Instead, de Clercq and Sholtz hope to bring the app to the consumer market and ultimately make 3D printing more affordable and accessible to South Africans through mobile tech.

In the United States, MIT startup NVbots is also helping to bring 3D printing to the classroom.

To make 3D printing part of shop classes, and part of STEM programs across the U.S., NVbots has created an easy-to-use cloud interface and tiered safety training curricula enabling students to safely 3D print 24-7 on an NVprinter from any device.

That ease-of-use is key in classrooms. Teachers often need to print the same part for each student, and the process—loading a part in the software, starting the print, coming back in a few hours to remove the part, then starting the next print—can get cumbersome.

NVbots’ specialized 3D printing software allows printers to hold a queue of print jobs and then automatically remove parts after they have been printed. It then begins the next print job without any human interaction required.

NVbots’ ultimate goal? Engage 50,000 schools globally to improve STEM education and to inspire the next generation of inventors.

Now if only kids could just learn to 3D print their lunches…

Image courtesy of GADGETS3D

This entry was posted in Advanced Manufacturing, Innovation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One thought on “3D Printing Comes to the Classroom”

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