What is 3D Printing?

Known in industrial circles as rapid prototyping, 3D printing refers to technologies that construct physical objects from three-dimensional (3D) digital content such as 3D modeling software, computer-aided design (CAD) tools, computer-aided tomography (CAT), and X-ray crystallography. A 3D printer builds a tangible model or prototype from the electronic file, one layer at a time, through an extrusion-like process using plastics and other flexible materials, or an inkjet-like process to spray a bonding agent onto a very thin layer of fixable powder. The deposits created by the machine can be applied very accurately to build an object from the bottom up, layer by layer, with resolutions that, even in the least expensive machines, are more than sufficient to express a large amount of detail. The process even accommodates moving parts within the object. Using different materials and bonding agents, color can be applied, and parts can be rendered in plastic, resin, or metal. This technology is commonly used in manufacturing to build prototypes of almost any object (scaled to fit the printer, of course) that can be conveyed in three dimensions.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • One of the best impacts is levelling the playing field for beginner designers and prototypers such that they come out of training already manufacturing not still just an apprentice - jnxyz jnxyz Feb 22, 2015
  • With 3D printing likely to become an important component in Manufacturing and Supply Chain it could become an important skill to include within vocational training programs. - philcounty philcounty Feb 25, 2015
  • Ditto for advanced engineering, including bio-engineering, the same could apply for undergraduate programs as well (e.g. various engineering disciplines, surgery, etc.). - philcounty philcounty Feb 25, 2015
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • beyond just the obvious uses for design classes etc, I think the whole idea of rapid-prototyping of anything (lesson plans, project planning, textbooks, tables, device stands, chairs etc) will have an even wider impact once educators in general get used to having stuff so much sooner and under their direct control rather than an external company or institutional branch - jnxyz jnxyz Feb 22, 2015
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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