Using 3D Printers to Improve Learning
3D printing technologies engender creativity and collaboration, and skills development. They promote learning through exploration rather than learning only from textbooks. A study in China from 2014 found that 3D printing significantly improved spatial learning. Research on 3D printing in education highlights how 3D-printed artifacts provide learning benefits that are not achievable with textbook or screen based learning. This further emphasizes the need of educational facilities to leverage 3D printing technology.
3D Printing in Schools
Educators can include 3D printing at wide-ranging grade levels. The earlier the exposure is to the technology, the less foreign it will seem. 3D printing technologies enable educators to provide students with accurate physical prototypes, which provides practical, hands-on knowledge useful for understanding scientific concepts. As mentioned, spatial learning is useful for developing technical skills hands-on, rather than from a textbook or screen. Also, students can make use of 3D-printed objects to assist in oral presentations, which are both effective and can improve confidence in their public speaking.
3D Printing in Universities
Although 3D printers have not yet become standard at every higher education institution, there has been a great deal of adoption by colleges and universities on a global scale. The demand for this technology often comes from the need to prototype applications in various industries. Automotive, aerospace and defense, and healthcare are just a few of the industries which are accelerating the integration of 3D printing. As they do, familiarity with the technology will start becoming integral to the job functionality of many. Indeed, it is anticipated that in the United States alone 3D-printing technologies could create three to five million jobs in the next ten years.
Also important is the ability for the student experience to be rooted in spatial practice rather than only textbook theory. In this way, students and educators can design and delve into impactful learning experiences. At a university level, chemistry students can study detailed 3D-printed molecules, while students of graphic design can replicate and create 3D versions of their works.
It doesn’t end there. Medical students can 3D print organs, history students can 3D print and recreate artifacts, and architecture students can print 3D project models. 3D printed parts are often used as test models for science experiments spanning disciplines, including aerospace, robotics and mechanical engineering. 3D printing is multi-use in the world of dentistry as well, ranging from access to root chambers and canals and irrigation.
3D Printing in Libraries
Libraries in the digital era expand beyond books. Modern libraries include computers and even more modern libraries include 3D printers! Indeed, the nature of libraries is changing to reflect how people learn about subjects using new technologies. Indeed, many university libraries are one of the few multi-disciplinary areas on college campuses. Having 3D printers in a university library makes the technology available to all students rather than restricting access to science and/or engineering students. Having 3D printers in public libraries improves collaboration and knowledge exchange between those interested in learning about the technology.
Many libraries now have dedicated “makerspaces” – spaces where people come together to design and build projects often with access to tools, materials and technologies for hands-on exploration. In such places, 3D printers are available for use by all library members, removing the barrier to entry for experimentation and learning.
Both Faculty and Students Benefit from Next-Gen 3D Printing
Next generation printing technologies bring with them even more possibilities for faculty members and students alike. For example, Massivit’s Gel Dispensing Printing (GDP) technology allows for incredibly fast printing of large-scale pieces. These printers give academics and students the tools to enable new discoveries by leveraging unique large-volume additive manufacturing technology.
With a Massivit printer, fresh workflows and fabricated custom-built parts and prototypes can be created at any shape or size – at high speed and with lower costs and leftover waste material. Better yet, they retain the flexibility to be valuable for a wide range of disciplines. For all of these reasons and more, 3D printers like those from Massivit will continue making a big impact for education and research around the globe.