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Case studies on 3D printing in Education: Justifying the Investment

3D printing is being adopted by an ever-increasing number of schools, colleges and universities. It has become an essential educational tool. Within Education however, tight budgets and funding are always a concern so in this final article in the Making 3D Printing in Education a Reality series, we look at various ways schools can justify and fund 3D printing for the classroom.

3D Printing – justifying the investment

Most schools would agree that 3D printing encourages the active engagement of students which helps them to retain information and quickly grasp relatively complex topics. Teachers are able to think of new creative ways to deliver their lessons and help their students excel. What about hard data to support this?

3D printing benefits – beyond anecdotes

There is evidence of the wider impact that 3D printing has on developing students’ altruistic and business acumen:
  1. Improving student performance: Studies on how 3D printing is improving students’ vital skills, for example, those required to excel in STEM subjects, are starting to appear. See Case Study #1 below for details.
  2. Inspiring Future Careers: 3D printing can have a central role in a student’s career choice, particularly within STEM subjects. Through 3D printing, students experience the sense of achievement, interest and fun that a career in, let’s say, science or engineering can offer, areas they may not have otherwise considered. See Case Study #2 below for more details.
  3. Preparing students for the future: 3D printing is now being used in a vast range of industries, including medicine and food, so students need to be knowledgeable and comfortable with it. However, 3D printing has a greater role to play in helping the next generation become excited and at ease with new technology. Whatever career path students choose to follow; the fact is being technologically proficient will be essential. See Case Study #3 below.
  4. Encouraging altruism & business acumen: Teaching our children about values is a hot topic for many parents and educators. Some schools and universities have used 3D printing to help children experience the joy of helping others, as well as developing potential business opportunities. See Case Study #4.

3D Printing – relieving budgetary pressure

With restricted budgets it is vital to consider all the costs involved in 3D printing and how these can be covered. There are the obvious costs, such as the printer and materials, but it is also important to consider how these printers will be managed, supported and maintained. To find out more about the costs of 3D printing, read our blog article, How Much Does 3D Printing Cost?  Both grants and pay-to-print services can relieve the pressure on your budget, let’s take a closer at these.


Technology is highly valued in education. All countries, districts or municipalities offer grants to encourage schools and universities to introduce technology into the classroom. 3D printing is proving a popular investment where grants are available. Speak to your local education authority to find out the simplest ways of funding a 3D printing initiative.


Pay-to-print services

Many schools charge students for printing on a pay-to-print service for paper printing and this can be applied to 3D printing. This can be very important, especially if students are encouraged to use 3D printing for personal use. Whether you charge or not, it is important to know which classes or departments are using the 3D printer and 3D printing materials so that they can be charged accordingly. If you need to recoup all or some of your 3D printing costs, look for a 3D printer provider that enables you to offer 3D printing on a chargeable basis.

Case Studies

Case Study #1
In 2018, students from the University of Arkansas studied the effect of using 3D printing to improve spatial visualization of 6th graders. For this study, students had to visualize the rotation of an object. They were asked to complete questions with and without the aid of 3D printed blocks. The study demonstrated an improvement across all five schools that participated, ranging from a 7% improvement to a 16% improvement, when using the 3D printed blocks. The research also provided evidence that students retained their new visualization skills and were able to complete the questions more successfully following the experiment, without the need of the blocks.

Case Study #2
Winning the Information Science Technology Challenge convinced three students from Columbia College, New Zealand to pursue their interest in engineering. The students won the challenge for their business plan, producing low-cost prosthetic limbs using a 3D printer. The panel of judges was so impressed with the students’ business plan that they recommended every hospital in New Zealand be equipped with a 3D printer. Production costs of making the prosthetic limbs were so low that patients could purchase them for just $10.

Case Study #3
 Analyst Insight: According to PwC, by 2020, 77% of all jobs will require some degree of technical skills. There’s a growing need for workers trained in STEM skills, but a shortage of graduates who have them. So, having an aptitude to adopt new technology and an understanding of how this can improve business performance will be essential for the next generation.

Case Study #4
Illinois High School used their 3D printer to provide a nine year old with a prosthetic hand that would have cost her parents $50,000. The school spent just $105 for a pair of the prosthetic, including materials.

When it comes to 3D printing, education has very specific needs. At Y Soft we have worked and continue to work with educators on YSoft be3D eDee. This 3D printing solution is developed specifically for students and faculty staff. We understand that it is important to find a comprehensive solution that helps your school, college or university get the most out of 3D printing.

Part 1 Making 3D Printing in Education a Reality
Part 2 Encouraging the Successful Adoption of 3D Printing
To find out more about YSoft be3D eDee watch our video.
To find out more about introducing 3D printing into your classroom download our eBook.
Do you have a 3D printer in your classroom? We would love to hear from you, use the comments section below to share your thoughts and any questions you might have.

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