Technology Review #1: 3D Printing

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CHECK IT OUT – LITERALLY

The instructional technology department in Cape Public Schools has a wide variety of technology that can be checked out by teachers in the district. These devices range from iPods to coding robots. This review is the first in a series, reviewing technology available through the instructional technology department or through other school funded sources. First up- a Dremel 3D Printer.

“3D printing uses computer-aided design (CAD) to create three-dimensional objects through a layering method. Sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing, 3D printing involves layering materials, like plastics, composites or bio-materials to create objects that range in shape, size, rigidity and color.” (builtin.com) Before this none of the students in the class had any experience with a 3D printer or the software used to create 3D objects.

OUR EXPERIENCE

Using the 3D Printer was awesome and we recommend that teachers find a way to make it relevant to one of their lessons. It was a unique opportunity that we might not get without teachers having a willingness to innovate and try something new. We began by learning the programs associated with the device and learning about the various individual pieces of the printer: the filament, extruder tip, printing bed, and the “how to” of how the machine worked. Next we moved on to finding ready-made designs, learning how to prepare the machine for a print and how to clean it up afterwards, and prepare it for a new print. This was a good method because it allowed us to understand how the machine was actually working – and what it struggled with- before we tried to make our own products.

DIY and Ready-Made

There are many programs available when using a 3D Printer. Yeggi.com is a great resource if you are looking for a ready-to-print design. There are countless designs out there. These ready-made designs vary in quality, price (some are free and some are expensive), and their editability. Most of what we chose to print came from Yeggi.  We were lucky with the files we chose and didn’t have many issues.

Next we experimented with Tinkercad. Tinkercad is a student friendly, free 3D design program that comes with many ready to go shapes to get you started. We didn’t try anything complicated and settled for making keychains. This was a program that we could learn, well enough to make simple keychains, with 10 minutes of instruction.

3D printing could be helpful when making molds for jewelry, cookie cutters, replacement parts, or pieces to enhance objects you already own.

AVOID OUR MISTAKES

The Dremel 3D printer makes it difficult to make a mistake. It walks you through each step and tells you what to do. We had a handful of minor issues: forgetting to level the bed, the filament snapped while printing once, we broke the print trying to get it off the bed, and forgot to scale up our image twice.  These trial and error mistakes were easy to fix. As long as you are paying attention to what you are doing, these mistakes can usually be avoided.  Make sure that you have plenty of time planned out for printing the objects you choose or create, because it can take a long time.

Holding the World in your Hand

3D printing makes it possible to hold the Roman Colosseum in your hand. Math manipulatives, invisible balance tables, globes, historic statues, and countless other teaching cools can be found for free or for small fees on sites like Yeggi. This technology makes it possible to create physical teaching tools and models.

People are already beginning to innovate with 3D printing by making homes, boats, and printing with metals. While researching we saw that scientists are also printing bio-medical materials, like new ears. This technology will continue to grow and become more accessible.

Objects we chose to print off of Yeggi.