Need of 3D Printing in the Classroom
As explained earlier 3D printing technology is redefining the rules of manufacturing. And as time passes by the technology will get more and more mainstream and ultimately a norm in the manufacturing industry. Besides the technology being used in factories, it is also a great learning tool. Educators have observed that technology sparks curiosity, hunger to learn, creative thinking, and a problem-solving attitude. Educators can use the technology to adopt the new STEM or STEAM learning to create future engineers, designers, artists, researchers, and entrepreneurs. It is proven to simplify complex concepts by converting theories into simple explainable models aiding in visualizing problems and concepts.
Finally, the eventual adoption of the technology soon in all sectors makes it obvious that 3D printing should be implemented in classrooms as students need to learn this technology today to use it tomorrow.
Buying a 3D printer
Once a school decides to implement 3D printing in the classroom, the next step is to buy an appropriate 3D printer. There are loads of options available to select from but you can check out this list to choose from the best 3D printers in 2021.
It is important to remember that for seamless learning a good reliable and durable printer with minimal hassles is ideal. Students should spend more time on designing and printing things instead of troubleshooting the 3D printer itself.
Steps to Implement 3D Printing in the Classroom
Implementing 3D printing in the classroom is not as easy as it sounds. The real work starts when the 3D printer arrives. We list down the path to implement the technology to enable learning.
Step 1: Conceptual Learning
The first step to implementation is always to teach the conceptual understanding of the technology. 3D printing is unlike conventional technologies and so its knowledge is important. Educators should impart the information through presentations, videos, images, and a few 3D printed samples as well. A good addition to this learning process would be a 3D printing pen. It is the best way to explain the 3D printing concept.
In addition to the conceptual knowledge, students should also be taught the 3D printing workflow and ecosystem. The workflow will explain how and where the 3D printing process starts (the ideation and designing stage) and where it ends (the printing and post-processing stage) and everything in between like the slicing, file preparation, etc.
The 3D printing ecosystem will introduce the students to every aspect of 3D printing like the hardware (3D printer and 3D Scanner), the materials (filaments for FDM, resins for SLA/DLP), and software (design, host, slicer, and photogrammetry).
Lastly, they should be taught about the applications and implications of the technology. This will give a 360 degree understanding of the technology.
Step 2: Designing with Guidelines & Downloading of Files
As every 3D printing process starts with the designing stage, the second obvious step to teach students is how to design models. A lot of free software suites are available for students to design models. For new students, free software is more than sufficient while for slightly advanced students, the school can invest in paid software. Software companies offer good discounts for academic usage.
Designing for 3D printing is different from traditional design. So, educators should make it a point to introduce the students to the concept of DfAM or Designing for Additive Manufacturing. Without this knowledge, 3D printing learning is incomplete.
Online repositories of 3D models designed by experienced designers are also quite popular and widely used. These repositories should be introduced and students should learn how to search, download and get those designs 3D printed.
Step 3: Materials
Materials is a seemingly simple yet complex topic. Especially choosing the materials. Though first-time learners should not delve into the material selection process, educators should only explain the different types of materials and a brief understanding of which material is to be used for which application.
This step also includes the practical loading and unloading of the filament into the FDM 3D printer.
Step 4: Slicing
Slicing forms an essential part of the 3D printing workflow. A slicer software converts a 3D CAD file into multiple 2D slices/layers that a 3D printer can understand and ultimately print into a solid object. Without this step, the print cannot proceed.
Knowledge of operating a slicer is essential and also the various parameters that can be controlled to improve the print quality.
Step 5: 3D Printing
3D printing is not as simple as just loading a design file and pushing the print button. Initially, it may seem a long-drawn process but as the usage increases some things get habitual, and thus a good 3D printing habit will be inculcated.
Every 3D printing process should follow a set of checklists to ensure that every 3D print is successful. This is the level of expertise and commitment one should aspire to. We have compiled a short yet important checklist for every student to consider and follow to ensure a high-quality output, each time.
- Is the model perfect for 3D printing?
- Have you selected the right 3D printer in the slicer
- Does the model size fit onto your 3D printer bed?
- Is the model orientation perfect?
- Are you orienting the model in such a way that it has minimal supports?
- If you require support material, then check the support material settings.
- Which print settings you want the model to print with?
- Did you select the default settings? If not, then is this case an exception?
- Are you using a bed adhesion tool? If not why?
- Have you selected the right material settings to print with? Check the filament diameter and temperature.
- Are you using dual extrusion or a single extruder? Check settings for dual extrusion if so.
- Check crucial parameters like layer height, wall thickness, line count, infill density and pattern, print and support material, etc.
- Is the print bed appropriately prepared for the print?
- Is the filament enough to complete the print?
Step 6: Troubleshooting
Students should also be able to understand what went wrong with a print if the print is unsuccessful. For this, the educators should troubleshoot every print to explain if a print was successful or not. If yes then why and if not then why. And how an unsuccessful print can be rectified and how it should be printed.
Step 7: Lesson Plans & Projects
Once students start to get a feel of printing and can print a few parts on their own, it is time to start lesson plans of projects to test them out. Teachers can devise lesson plans that:
Excite the students to learn more
Boost creating thinking and problem solving
Incorporate design thinking principles
Include individual and collaborative assignments
Include STEAM learning concepts
Develop communication and documentation skills
Identify entrepreneurial instincts and hone them
Step 8: Contests
Finally, to build that competitive attitude, students should also be tested with contests. Both individual and team contests are a great way to inculcate the winning mentality and the will to succeed.
Some contest ideas:
Design Contests: Make a Name Tag, Design a map of a state or country, Design Science concept models, etc.
Product Development: Creative Solution for a household item, replacement part for household items, etc.
Printing Contests: Printing models with bridge, printing with fewer supports, printing with inclines, etc.
By following the above-mentioned steps, any school can easily implement 3D printing in the classroom.