In terms of education, what are the main benefits of 3D printing?
In one word: collaboration. Students benefit the most when educators work from outside their comfort zones, reaching across department boundaries to plan lessons and projects that engage all involved. When genuine collaboration occurs, it is then that the attributes from each department can coincide to create a multi-dimensional approach to learning; thus, being able to reach every student on every level. Educators as well as students will be able to benefit from all the positives of 3D printing in the classroom: enhanced leadership and classroom management skills, increased productivity, confidence, and school-wide morale, and strengthened time management, organisation and interpersonal skills.
For many, the term 3D printing immediately conjures images of ‘techy’ subjects like engineering. How else can it be utilised across the curriculum?
3D printers are in the unique position of being able to bridge the divide between the scientific and artistic departments, which greatly enhances students’ learning and productivity. As 3D printing’s design cycle is very similar to the creative process and the scientific method, both can be applied to every subject in every department, thus encouraging inter-departmental and cross-curricula collaboration all year long. From bespoke 3D printed sports equipment (cricket bats and more) to musical instrument mouthpieces, to clay sculptures and buildings, the range of materials you can use is expanding at an alarming rate, removing any restrictions or limitations which once stood in the way. 3D printing is the perfect catalyst to introduce multi-departmental curricula assimilation as they can be seamlessly used in all subjects with little to no imagination required.
What advice would you give to schools who are considering 3D printing investments? What’s the most important consideration?
The most important factor to consider is the student. Having a clearly defined learning environment and curriculum that achieves the balance between the level of skill and the size of the challenge at hand, will set the expectations that the 3D printer must meet, and naturally eliminate those which are not up to standard.
Another advantage to consider is having the cooperation from experts in the industry. They can combine factors and considerations to offer simple and honest feedback, as this can make all the difference in effectively managing and producing efficient 3D prints in the school environment, saving both time and money whilst producing quicker positive results.
Where do you see 3D printing fitting in to the UK’s education landscape going forward?
3D printers will be evolving in the marketplace by differentiating themselves with specific features tailored for specific niches, instead of broad-based industries. Instead of 3D printers marketed at education as whole, we will see 3D printers being customised to differentiate themselves in order to fill specific gaps, such as 3D printers for autism with an enclosed printer bed, significantt noise reduction, and specific materials that are not only safe but with particular textures and colours to easily incorporate into the curriculum.