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Part 1: What is 3D Printing & What Are the Benefits for Education?

In the education sector, 3D printing has very real benefits. The technology enables students to engage in the lesson and more quickly grasp relatively complex topics. Teachers also think of new creative ways to deliver their lessons and help their students excel. These are just two reasons why an increasing number of schools and universities are adopting or expanding their use of 3D printing.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing, a type of additive manufacturing, is the process of making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model. The 3D printing process converts a 3D digital model into 2D layers – a process often called slicing.
There are many types of 3D printing technology; the most common is FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication.) The 3D printer uses a filament to print the layers, one by one, on a surface.

Depending on the size and complexity of the model, hundreds of layers are added on top of each other. The object is created from the bottom up and the layers harden into a solid 3D object.

Watch this 15 second video to see an object go from a digital file to a 3D object.



So why are more and more schools and universities adopting 3D printing? Let’s look deeper into the benefits 3D printing offers education.

“77% of schools who have adopted 3D printing plan to expand their use of the technology.”

Source: 3D Printing in Education 2016 Report Card, Dimensional Research, 2016

Improves student participation
Keeping students engaged can be challenging especially when the subject is complex. 3D printing brings the lesson to life and helps to hold the students’ interest. Increasing engagement within the classroom improves student participation and students can absorb and retain the information being taught much better and longer. Engaged students are also highly motivating for teachers and creates a positive learning experience for all.

Promotes active learning
As you know, most people learn by doing. 3D printing enables students to be actively involved in the entire learning process, from the initial idea, through design, to the final 3D printed object. Being able to interact with a subject at every stage of the lesson helps students grasp the subject matter and retain information. This is particularly beneficial when teaching complex topics. For example, when learning about the concepts behind wind turbines, which involves physics and math, the student 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.

Encourages creative thinking – learning through discovery
Discovery learning is considered a key element of the learning process. The key principle is that by using problem-solving situations students draw on their own past experience and existing knowledge to discover new facts, truths and relationships. Being able to try new things, test theories and think more creatively can significantly aid the learning process. 3D printers encourage students to be innovative and creative because they can adjust their idea through trial and error. As a result, students are more likely to remember the facts and lessons learned. 

Turning subjects into careers
3D printing can play an important part in a student’s career choice, in particular, STEM subjects can translate into interest in careers that may not even exist yet. Students experience the sense of achievement and fun that a career in science or engineering can offer. Complex concepts and testing of theories are a natural fit for exploration using 3D printing. Science, technology, engineering and math subjects, enhanced through 3D printing in their classroom, prepare young students for interesting and relevant careers. However, 3D printing is not just for STEM subjects; educators find 3D printing useful for other subjects as well.

Source: 3D Printing in Education, Dimensional Research, November 2016. Survey Question: In your educational institution, is 3D printing used only for STEM subjects?

3D printing opens up new opportunities in areas that students may previously have considered as boring or beyond their capability. They are empowered to choose how they want to make a difference in the world.

3D printing in a real classroom
Technical School Prosek, based in the Czech Republic, adopted 3D printing in 2011. In addition to introducing modern technology into the education process, the school found many key benefits of 3D printing in the classroom especially in strengthening students’ motivation to learn. Read the story of the one-year trial.

“The high quality of educational projects when using 3D printing really surprised me. Personally, this is the most valuable benefit of using 3D printers in school, especially when it comes to graduation projects. Students have a more innovative approach to them, they are more creative and not afraid to explore and experiment as they can test their designs right away. Once a rather feared experience, the final exam process becomes more fun with 3D printers.”      

Lukas Prochazka, Deputy Headmaster, Technical School Prosek

Improved engagement drives results
3D printing needs careful consideration but the benefits it offers both teachers and students makes the effort worthwhile. 3D printing in schools provides the space for ideas to develop and makes education more fun. When students are more engaged, their motivation for learning increases, the quality of teaching improves and results are boosted.

Learn more about 3D Printing in Education

Introducing 3D Printing into the Classroom
is a series of articles designed to help educators and IT administrators in education understand 3D printing, how 3D printing can enhance the learning experience and the considerations about the 3D printing ecosystem. Understanding the 3D printing process, how the solution fits into the classroom and how costs, access and usage can be managed, are elements of a successful 3D Printing Program.
Part 2,  How Do You Know if You Need a 3D Printer for Your Classroom?

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