What is 3D printing?
3D printing is “a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many successive thin layers of a material.” For example, 3D printing could be made using heated plastic and made layer by layer from the ground up. Or, it could be carved into wood using a rotating drill. It all starts with a virtual design that you the creator design and export onto the computer working with the machine. I’ve had multiple experiences with different kinds of programs that allows someone to freely design something that they want to be 3D-printed, and most of these programs are fairly easy to use. They allow total individuality over what you want to be created, how big, what color, etc.
What are the different kinds and methods of 3D printing?
It may not seem like it, but there are various types of 3D printers and ways to 3D print something. Some methods use melting or softening material to produce the layers of whatever object you created in the program online. Selective laser sintering (SLS) and fused deposition modeling (FDM) are the most common technologies using this way of printing. Another method of printing is to lay liquid materials that are cured with different technologies. The most common technology using this method is called stereolithography (SLA).
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Selective Laser Sintering: uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass powders into a mass that has the desired 3D shape.
Fused Deposition Modeling: works using a plastic filament or metal wire which is unwound from a coil and supplies material to an extrusion nozzle which turns the flow on and off. The object is produced by extruding melted material to form layers as the material hardens immediately after extrusion from the nozzle.
Stereolithography: this technology creates a vat of liquid ultraviolet curable photopolymer resin and an ultraviolet laser to build the object’s layers one at a time. For each layer, the laser beam traces a cross-section of the part pattern on the surface of the liquid resin and the exposure to UV light hardens the residue.
Why use 3D printing in classrooms?
3D printing provides countless opportunities in elementary, middle school, high school, and even colleges. 3D printers are useful in math rooms, science labs, history, art, and so much more. It’s a tool that allows a student to be creative and bring a 2D idea to a 3D object.
Many students learn better with a hands-on experience, so why not have them be able to create what they’re learning about? In biology students can create a heart or lungs to learn about the respiratory system. In art class a student can make a Van Gogh painting come alive. There are so many innovative ways to use a 3D printer for educational purposes. The software to create these designs are easy to use, and depending on how intricate the design is, it doesn’t take long to create a 3D object.