Inspired by an episode of American sitcom Dexter, seven childhood friends, each eager to pursue opportunities in technology innovation, sensed the potential of 3D printing in classrooms as an educational aid in India.
Tapping into a market that had yet to embrace 3D printing as a learning tool within the country, the entrepreneurs spent time investigating how the technology could be used and where it could be pushed in future. That culminated in founding 3Dexter, a company dedicated to implementing 3D printing technology in experiential learning processes at grassroots level.
While 3D printing technology has been around for more than 30 years, it is still in its infancy in India. Over the last few years, awareness has risen in line with start-ups such as 3Dexter developing and showcasing the potential of this technology. Now more than simply an alternative to prototyping, 3D printing has been shown to allow for an increasing number of uses, tackling industry challenges across a range of sectors.
3Dexter sensed a gap in the market concerning the lack of end-to-end solutions to provide an all-round education package and the ineffectual systems for the provision of experiential learning. The start-up aims to tackle these obstacles by working with schools to provide a product that meets the current needs of the sector. Through the physical experience of 3D printing, 3Dexter can provide an enhanced, adaptable and immersive teaching tool.
Originally launched in a school in Dwarka, India, 3Dexter took six months to develop an end-to-end solution for teachers that built curricula in accordance with a number of accredited teaching boards. This pilot project catered for around 500 kids, the success of which saw it begin full-fledged operations – with a further 13 schools added shortly after.
The start-up company charges an annual fee for which schools receive three printers, 3D pens, two trainers and 50kg of raw material for the printer. While traditional printers use various types of paper such as recycled board, photo paper and other materials including polyester film and canvas, the 3D printers 3Dexter provide use polylactic acid (PLA) to build their creations. PLA is one of the most popular materials for 3D because of its multipurpose uses but 3D printers can also work with carbon fibre filaments, polycarbonate, polypropylene, metal and wood.
3Dexter has set out to create awareness about how 3D printing technology can positively impact the education sector, both empowering teachers by enabling more creativity in the classroom and complementing problem-solving, visualisation and other skills in students. It is believed 3D printing can enhance teaching approaches by taking what was once only a picture in a workbook and turning it into a palpable item that encourages better engagement and understanding.
In a short space of time, 3Dexter has witnessed the potential for developing into further industries. Indeed, it first looked at both the fashion and automobile sectors. However, at the moment the brand is underlining its commitment to education by seeking ways to enhance its offer, envisioning its technology becoming the core of higher education as well as an enabler of innovation.
Indeed, 3Dexter has committed itself to strengthening the education system. Through its workshops, it hopes to spread the message of 3D printing’s potential while increasing awareness of the technology to complement schools in their teaching endeavours. These workshops are also crucial to convincing parents that this innovative technology can help their children learn.
In India, the opportunities are vast. In 2016, a report from Redseer Consulting showed the market for online supplemental education could rise to more than $2.5 billion with 15% growth in the following three years. This has seen a vast increase in investor interest with a number of start-ups getting a financial boost.
3Dexter, on a global scale, competes with MakerBot and Form Labs, both based in the United States, which have established themselves as leaders in combining 3D printing with education. But the company’s founders are confident that they can dominate the Indian market by working closely with institutions to implement seamless integration of the technology within the learning environment. The company also distinguishes itself as the only one to have established a unique curriculum.
And in India, 3Dexter has been able to ride the opportunity provided by the government under its Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) programme which was created to promote new learning techniques in Indian schools with innovative technology at their core. ATL will boost 3Dexter’s future ambitions through the allocation of funds for education to embrace new technologies, 3D printing being one of them.
The future is bright for 3Dexter. Alka Rampal, the Principal at Himalaya School in Rohini, said the introduction of these printing solutions had helped students apply what they were learning in a much better way. It’s bringing innovation to the core of Indian education, revolutionising the teaching environment and introducing children to new types of technology at an early stage in their development.