3D printing is the process of making a three dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. Below is a photo of myself standing in front of a camera and you can see the 3D model that could be created of myself if I chose to print it. I didn’t print it though, that would be rather sad. However, my children both got a 3D printed whistle!
3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. “Additive manufacturing takes virtual blueprints from computer aided design (CAD) or animation modeling software and “slices” them into digital cross-sections for the machine to successively use as a guideline for printing. Depending on the machine used, material or a binding material is deposited on the build bed or platform until material/binder layering is complete and the final 3D model has been printed” (Wikipedia). It may be easier to understand by viewing the process in action. Below are two short videos that I took.
The 2013 NMC Horizon Report for K-12 predicted 3D printing to be one of the new technologies to be used in education in four to five years. “One of the most significant aspects of 3D printing for teaching and learning is that it enables more authentic exploration of objects that may not be readily available to schools…In science and history classes for example, students can make and interact with models of fragile objects such as fossils and artifacts” (Horizon Report, 2013). As the technology becomes cheaper and more prevalent in schools, access will no longer be an obstacle for the wide spread use of 3D printing.