1.) What recent advances have been made in 3D printing within the education sector?
The biggest advancement is not necessarily the technology itself but the awareness of the benefits that 3D printing brings to the education sector. In the last few years, we’ve seen 3D printing being included in more varied learning environments than ever before, from architecture courses to fashion colleges. This is, in part, due to the fact that 3D printing is becoming the norm in many working environments and, as a result, schools and universities want to prepare their students for life after education.
2.) We’ve seen 3D printing being used in many sectors but has it really moved forward in our schools and universities?
We have definitely seen a recent uptake in the number of schools and universities using 3D printing as an important aid to learning. Unsurprisingly, the majority of progression is happening in further education where there is research into new printing materials, faster build times, and bigger and more intricate objects are being created. At the same time, schools are increasingly placing value on the importance of computing and digital technologies in the learning environment and 3D printing is really becoming a part of that.
3.) In your opinion, what skills can young learners gain from having 3D printing in the classroom?
3D printing in the classroom provides new insights, especially when it comes to translating an idea from flat 2D imagery, whether on a computer or paper, to a physical item. 3D printing shows young learners how easy it can be to build something and how the barriers to creating a physical object are not that high. The University of Nottingham is currently using 3D printing to enable students to deliver creative and intricate architectural models as part of their course work. This enables them to become familiar with model making formats and the skills required for their eventual roles in the architecture industry. I believe 3D printing will create a new generation of crafts people using so many different tools to help shape their built environment into something more exciting.
We’re already seeing 3D printing as a classroom staple on architecture and design courses, such as the one at the University of Nottingham, but in the not too distant future, I expect 3D printers will sit alongside other classroom technologies, enabling students to learn in new and innovative ways
4.) 3D printers are generally still quite expensive, do the benefits it can bring to teaching and learning justify the costs?
Like any technology, 3D printing is an investment. In education, the right technology can provide the next generation with the correct skillsets to go far in their future careers. In terms of a return on investment, by providing students with the latest technologies, the education establishment becomes a more desirable place to study, increasing the employability of students.
5.) Can you recommend any resources or training programmes which could help schools/universities and teachers to understand and use a 3D printer?
When purchasing a 3D printer, it’s important you have the right resources in place, particularly software, to ensure you are utilising the device to its full potential. There is a wide range of data preparation software available including Materialise Magics, which allows you to efficiently print without needing advanced technical knowledge. Free software is also available such as TinkerCAD, a completely browser based solution, which means nothing needs to be downloaded. Make sure to speak to your 3D print supplier about these additional resources and what they recommend to suit your needs.
6.) Will 3D printing continue to grow in education – and will these machines be a classroom staple in years to come?
Yes, 3D printing will continue to grow in a variety of industries, but education provides one of the most important opportunities as the technology becomes increasingly more accessible. We're already seeing 3D printing as a classroom staple on architecture and design courses, such as the one at the University of Nottingham, but in the not too distant future, I expect 3D printers will sit alongside other classroom technologies, enabling students to learn in new and innovative ways.
Sav Jeyendran is an Application Specialist at Canon UK