Wednesday, November 20, 2013

3-D Printing Made Easy by MakerBot Academy

By Sean Scarpiello

Recently, MakerBot and America Makes have joined forces to bring new 3-D printers to a handful of different public schools in a program called MakerBot Academy. Along with a 3-D printer, schools are given the plastic needed to print 3-D models and free access to the Thingiverse Community where students can download files for different models. But what exactly are 3-D printers, and what good can public school students do with this technology?

Until now, 3-D printers have been exclusive to industrial efforts and scientists in the fields of engineering, physics, and medicine. This is because 3-D printers allow scientists to slowly add layer upon layer of different media on to 3-dimensional models, sculptures, or tools. Using different plastic media, scientists can build, dissolve or create flexible objects and even build parts out of metal alloys. So far, 3-D printing has been used to make parts for industrial machinery, firearms, and even artificial hearts. With this is mind, 3-D printers appear to be pretty difficult, as it must take a lot of knowledge of different software to successfully design and create different 3-D objects to print.

While designing complex objects using 3-D printing software isn't easy, it is still possible for students to learn how to develop a basic understanding of designing simple models. Despite some difficulties, students do not need to be experts on the design software to print out 3-D objects. In fact, the free Thingiverse website offers more than 100,000 different objects that can be downloaded and printed easily be students. On this site, students can pick and choose to print out anything from LEGO block sets and puzzles to scaled models of buildings and art. Also, many people who are well versed in how to use 3-D printing software have posted the data necessary to print some creative objects with real word applications. For example, there are downloadable plans to print your own iPhone case, watch, bottles, and even a top for an aluminum soda can. With all of these cool objects and more, student can print out models for different classes. Models of DNA or the heart can be printed for science class, while models of jewelry or miniature sculptures can be made for art classes.

Further, schools could begin teaching students how to use the software. The goal of MakerBot Academy is to teach students how to use these technologies. 3-D printing really is the future so if students can begin to learn how to use this software early on, we can expect huge advancement in society utilizing 3-D printing. Students learning the software in high schools now may go on to develop intricate parts of tomorrow’s spacecrafts or transplant-able organs. Therefore, getting an early start on understanding the software is vital for success in the future.

In all, by donating 3-D printers to public schools as part of MakerBot Academy, MakerBot and America Makes are stimulating young minds to enter the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Also, 3-D printing allows students with all different types of interests to print 3-D models for a variety of classes. Best of all, MakerBot Academy is allowing students to learn this new software at low costs as they integrate more technology into the classroom.


No comments: