The Benefits of 3D Printing for Students and Educators

By TriMech on

3D printing technologies can help students develop real-world skills and experience and educators to deliver leading edge curriculum, but it is a significant investment. In this article, we will discuss the advantages of 3D printing technologies in schools including how both students and teachers will benefit.

Typically, when people think of 3D printing, they know it fits well with engineering. However, 3D printing technology can help many different disciplines and in some unique ways. We will cover a couple of these examples that will hopefully help kickstart some ways the technology can be used in your area of study.

Benefits for the Students

One of the biggest reasons to have a 3D printer on-site is for firsthand printer experience. A lot more engineering firms and manufacturing businesses are taking on additive manufacturing. This is usually to supplement the technologies and processes they already have and combine it with subtractive manufacturing. This is a great time for students to get ahead and understand the technology before they enter the job market. There is a learning curve for designing for additive manufacturing (Dfam), troubleshooting printers and how to toggle the settings to get the most optimal print and hands-on experience is invaluable.

3D Printing in manufacturing
3D Printing in manufacturing

Prototyping is not a new idea to engineering firms, however, using additive manufacturing is still relatively new. Depending on how many iterations you have and what kind of manufacturing processes are required to make these prototypes, it could end up being very costly and time-consuming. 3D printing can make a significant impact on the prototyping process making it a lot faster and easier to iterate. Any design changes can be made easily, and a new prototype printed in a few hours. Students can experience this process and learn how to create better designs like how the real workforce operates.

3D printing in education
3D printing in education

3D printing goes together with CAD. As you start to print more, you might find that you have more specific proprietary needs to fit a design or project. You may need to be able to manipulate your 3D CAD files to fit the exact specifications. SOLIDWORKS is a fantastic tool for this. Many engineering companies are looking for CAD experience as a requirement, so this is a great way to get an understanding using 3D printing to create custom designs that are made in CAD programs.

Benefits for Educators  

Educators can use 3D printing in the classroom to demonstrate what they are teaching in a clear and concise manner. There are many majors and disciplines that the technology can be used in.

  • Biology:
    • 3D printing can replicate body parts like organs, bones and limbs. It can teach students how to problem solve without dealing with a real patient. For example, a class wanted to 3D print a heart to create valves that will manipulate blood pressure.
      Realistic 3D Printed Anatomical Medical Model
      Realistic 3D Printed Anatomical Medical Model
    • 3D printing can be used for biomedical and biomechanical applications. For example, we have seen the technology used to create a prosthetic arm which makes it an accessible and affordable option. The team created a cap for the prosthetic to be expandable and be able to grow with the user.
  • Fine Arts: in conjunction with 3D scanning, users can scan a statue and 3D print it for display or for study. The fashion industry is beginning to combine with textile manufacturing to be able to 3D print on fabric to create a material that would have been almost impossible to make otherwise.
    3D Fashion Design
    3D Fashion Design
  • Architecture: 3D printing can create scale models to give a good visual and physical representation of a scale of what it will look like before committing to the final design. The 3D prints can create very detailed models and if any changes need to be made, it will be more accessible through CAD files.
  • Performing Arts: even performing arts majors can benefit from 3D printing. Props can be really expensive, and most departments don’t have the tools in-house to create them. A 3D printer can create those props easily and we have seen many examples of this application.
    monkey for stop motion character
    Monkey for stop motion character

Overall, 3D printing can be a very beneficial tool for both students and educators in various departments. We covered a lot of different applications in this article, but there are many more. 3D printing is not just for engineers and there are plenty of reasons why classrooms should invest in the technology.