What is 3D Printing?

Known in industrial circles as rapid prototyping, 3D printing refers to technologies that construct physical objects from three-dimensional (3D) digital content such as 3D modeling software, computer-aided design (CAD) tools, computer-aided tomography (CAT), and X-ray crystallography. A 3D printer builds a tangible model or prototype from the electronic file, one layer at a time, through an extrusion-like process using plastics and other flexible materials, or an inkjet-like process to spray a bonding agent onto a very thin layer of fixable powder. The deposits created by the machine can be applied very accurately to build an object from the bottom up, layer by layer, with resolutions that, even in the least expensive machines, are more than sufficient to express a large amount of detail. The process even accommodates moving parts within the object. Using different materials and bonding agents, color can be applied, and parts can be rendered in plastic, resin, or metal. This technology is commonly used in manufacturing to build prototypes of almost any object (scaled to fit the printer, of course) that can be conveyed in three dimensions.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • The real value add, currently, is that students can now see their designs come to completion even if it is often in a miniaturized version. As costs continue to decrease and the 3D printers increase in size and sophistication, students will be able to apply the technology to real world situations. From replacement parts, bespoke products, to works of art, the potential of this technology is almost limitless.- ibeeckmans ibeeckmans Nov 6, 2015

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • NIST has a 3D design unit using 123Design and a 3D Printer. The results are amazing as students do, indeed, transfer their ideas from the digital drawing board to real life products via a shop equipped with a laser cutter.- ibeeckmans ibeeckmans Nov 6, 2015
  • Students in Grade 4 at Shekou International School have used their iPads and a 3D printer to create geometric jewellery that was then showcased at a local art exhibition. https://youtu.be/TpUnjXnLeBc?t=132 - john.burns john.burns Nov 9, 2015

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