3D Printing – My First Exposure

I knew that 3D printing, crafting three-dimensional objects using CAD and a variety of materials from plastics to metal, existed, but it was a mystery to me. I know that these printers have become more affordable such that they are in the price range of more schools (a little over $2,000), but I knew very little about them. This past summer when I went to Danbury Fair Mall in Danbury, CT, I had the opportunity to visit the new Microsoft Store, and there they had one of the MakerBot Replicators in action. Since one of the designs was a small shark, and since I know how DE has a plethora of assets dealing with sharks, I asked the young man to please demo the printer by creating one for me. This particular model used coils of plastic in different colors, each of which was fed through an extruder (think that is what it was called) to create the 3D shape. I was using my old 3G iPhone to snap the pictures, and they are a bit fuzzy, but they should give you an idea of the process. The printer was following a design created in a software program that was compatible. I asked, and the rep said he thought that an object created using Google’s Sketch-Up might be able to be converted to a file that the printer could read. I am a bit fuzzy on how the young man set up the printer, but he said placement of the board on which the 3D object would be built had to be precise. Also, he told me that the hexagon shape was something the printer used for stability and conservation of materials.

extruder with plastic tubing inserted













Laying foundation of 3D shark

Building Up 3D shark

Finished printed 3D shark

Young representative with scraper to remove 3D object




















I think I need a tutorial on inserting multiple images into a post!

Anyway, if you want to know more, here are some links to more on 3D printing:

3D Printing – The Game Changer by Hugh Evans

How 3D Printing Works – Jennifer Pellet
Finally, in searching on 3D printing, I found a Google Hangout from March of 2013 entitled
“Google Science Fair 2013 Hangout on Air with Pablos Holman”
This is a hangout worth sharing with your budding inventors. Pablos Holman works for Intellectual Ventures Lab. He was instrumental in creating 3D printers at Makerbot. He envisions a future where we will be able to “print” our food. He has also been featured on several TED talks, repeating pretty much what he talked about in this Google Hangout. This man is fascinating. At one point during the hangout Pablo said the most important thing the computer gave him was the ability to “learn how to learn.” Previous brain research was based on dead brains. “Now  we can watch live brains with MRI machines, and what we’ve learned is that brains are really good at things they are interested in. Either get yourself interested in something you have to do or go do something else.
I highly recommend you watch the whole thing, but the part where he talks about “printing food” customized for us as individuals runs from 15:08 – 18:44.
So, I wonder, will 3D printers soon become as essential in a school as laser printers? Will the funding be there? If this is really a technology of the future, are schools obliged to expose students to it? Frankly, right now, I thought that the process, while wondrous, was a bit impractical. That little shark took over 20 minutes to “print.” However, I also remember my old dot-matrix printer that accompanied my Commodore 64 and how impressed I was with the Muppet borders it printed. Look where we’ve come from there. (I really dated myself, didn’t I?)
If your school has a 3D printer and you have links to student projects and testimonials on student engagement and excitement, please leave a comment.
Thanks so much. Carolyn









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  2. Dkutz said:

    Great article and resources! I am just starting my first year teaching a makers lab, after 23 years teaching other subjects. I am very excited. And nervous all the same. Your articles were a great help. Thanks

    • Carolyn Stanley said:

      Wow! Thanks for reading and responding. I loved teaching. I have been retired for 5 years now. While I don’t miss getting up at 5:45 am to get to school, I still do miss the excitement and challenges and interaction with young learners.
      I had nearly forgotten I’d written that piece. It was pretty good, if I do say so. Thanks again and great success with your maker lab.

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