Expert insight with Jing Lu: 3D printing

Charley Rogers catches up with Black Country Atelier’s Jing Lu to find out where it sits within the education landscape, and where it’s going

In terms of education, what are the main benefits of 3D printing?

For students who have set their sights on becoming a designer or engineer, being able to work spatially in 3D and use computer aided design (CAD) are increasingly expected skills in industry. 3D printing is one great way to gain those all-important skills. 3D printing naturally encourages learners to design, make and test products little and often. As more businesses move to agile operating models, having knowledge and practical experience of working iteratively will serve learners well in their future careers.

For many, the term 3D printing immediately conjures images of ‘techy’ subjects like engineering. How else can it be utilised across the curriculum?

I think the fact that 3D printing is seen as ‘techy’ by some learners can be a distinct advantage when it comes to introducing young people into subjects like engineering. When the public perception of engineering can still often be simply woodwork and metalwork, 3D printing is a refreshing and great starting point to try and change that perception.

During 3D printing programmes in schools, we often talk to young people and their parents about what modern design, engineering and manufacturing is about. We explain the rewarding careers that are available in modern product development and engineering, and I believe that message goes down well with young people and their parents. So rather than try to make 3D printing less ‘techy’, we should play to its strengths in helping to communicate the new and exciting opportunities in technology and engineering careers available to the next generation of school and college students.

Jing Lu

What advice would you give to schools who are considering 3D printing investments? What’s the most important consideration?

My main advice is to ensure teachers are well supported, so they are confident to invest their own time and effort in making 3D printing a success in your school. It can be a scary prospect to introduce a new technology like 3D printing into school, however, schools and teachers don’t need to do it alone. There is a wealth of high-quality project ideas, teaching schemes, awards and training available to help schools get started and established. 

Where do you see 3D printing fitting in to the UK’s education landscape going forward?  

I see universities, technical and specialist colleges increasingly invest more in computer aided design and manufacture tools, curriculum and training. I also see that this trend will increasingly filter down to secondary schools and even primary schools as they recognise the unique learning outcomes that technologies like 3D printing can have.

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