What is 3D Printing?

Also known as rapid prototyping, 3D printing refers to technologies that construct physical objects from three-dimensional (3D) digital content such as computer aided design (CAD), computer aided tomography (CAT), and X-ray crystallography. A 3D printer builds a tangible model or prototype from the file, one layer at a time, using an inkjet-like process to spray a bonding agent onto a very thin layer of fixable powder. The bonding agent can be applied very accurately to build an object from the bottom up, layer by layer. The process even accommodates moving parts within the object. Using different powders and bonding agents, color can be applied, and prototype 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) — models, plastic and metal parts, or any object that can be described in three dimensions.

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Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - alan alan Jan 27, 2010

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

  • Its already relevant, I just saw a selection of Design student projects realised through the use of a 3D printer. I think it offers a real opportunity for any field of higher education that works with physical industries and environments by making it possible for student work and ideas to be expressed from the virtual into the physical. - stephen.marshall stephen.marshall Aug 24, 2010
  • 3D printers are entering the consumer market, which will gradually make them more familiar to people. See http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/business/stories/2010/07/05/go-beyond-paper-and-ink.html - ninmah ninmah Aug 24, 2010~
  • an epiphany I had when working on a virtual world project recently was how much we use words to try and describe 3D things, especially those that we can't see with our own eyes. Being able to use 2D images to support these seems like a step forward eg describing a cell and the complex inner workings we use pages of text with 2D diagrams, or at best a picture of a squashed cell under a microscope. When I read about the 3D printer, I thought how amazing it would be to have a 3D 'cell' you can print out at home to get an idea of its sphericalness and to be able to take it to pieces to see what each 3D organelle looks like and play with them all. I imagine the complexity of designing and printing these out is a years away but when we get there the potential to be able to 'print out' all those too small to see in 3D things, or those too hard to access in artificial learning environments 3D things (which covers many things) would be amazing. - terry.neal terry.neal Aug 27, 2010
  • Its critical for students to work through the whole process of developing a solution i.e define, dream of a solution, design, Develop, deliver and debrief. The development of cheap 3d printers - http://reprap.org/wiki/Main_Page and modelling tools - http://www.aspexsoftware.com/fablab.htm takes project based learning into the classroom. - andrew.churches andrew.churches Sep 1, 2010
  • It will certainly be very interesting for us in interaction design courses where physical prototyping is also included. The real benefit is in the understanding gained from students in what is needed for such level of completion, and also for them in seeing their work manifested in a way that is previously a much longer and more expensive process. - ralf.muhlberger ralf.muhlberger Sep 1, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • This approach has benefits for different learning styles and intelligences as well as being well suited to males
  • Closely linked to 3D Printing is 3D modelling, and there are different requirements for this when the output is printed than when it is only seen on screen or animated. This is similar conceptually to the difference between 3D modelling for animation and 3D for games, and will have an impact on the 3D modelling courses out there. - ralf.muhlberger ralf.muhlberger Sep 1, 2010

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

  • Great sense of accomplishment, and a strong benefit in getting students to see themselves as professionals/practitioners in industrial design, physical prototype construction, etc. - ralf.muhlberger ralf.muhlberger Sep 1, 2010
  • I would expect that we will also be able to see more adventurous physical design in the future. - ralf.muhlberger ralf.muhlberger Sep 1, 2010
  • another response here

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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