The Advances in 3-D Printers for Education
3-D printing has greatly advances in recent years, with printers becoming smaller, faster and most importantly more affordable. A range of printers are now available at under the £1,000 mark and are small enough to sit on a table.
Recently the education sector supplied a number of schools with the funding to purchase a 3-D printer and then monitored the resulting effect it had on students. The printers were used in the D.T, engineering, mathematics and science departments of the schools and resulted in a range of interesting applications as well as greatly inspiring students to develop their ideas.
The printers helped students to understand the importance of mathematics and precision involved in design and engineering through projects that required moving parts and elements that needed specific measurements. In the science department students used the 3-D printers to design and create objects for use in scientific experiments, for example a Pelton Wheel used as part of an energy turbine. Science departments also found the 3-D printers useful as a context with which to discuss the properties of plastics and to build models for teaching students about molecules, eye-balls and cells. Maths departments found the printers useful to develop students’ visual skills as well as teaching 3-D Pythagoras theorem and trigonometry. They also created objects to investigate the velocity and distance of projectiles.
Many teachers claimed it took a few months to get familiar with the printers and the associated software and to become confident enough to use it as a teaching device. However the integration of the printers proved successful with self-confident teachers who had passion for their subject. Although 3-D printers may not drastically alter teaching as we know it, it does have the potential to greatly help things along.