Children in the classroom. Source: Pressmaster/
Children in the classroom. Source: Pressmaster/

3D printers may become a mainstay in several schools in the United States and Britain. 3D printing is an additive manufacturing technology that creates an object layer by layer from 3D model or CAD files. 3D printing has been around for about 30 years and the technology is getting better and cheaper with each passing year.

Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot, a 3D printer manufacturer, has partnered with, a crowd-funding organization for teachers to fund classroom projects, in an effort to bring 3D printers to more schools around the nation. The goal is to bring 3D printers to every school in America.

For students, working with a 3D printer offers a unique opportunity to solve problems, learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills, and teaches perseverance, especially when a print goes wrong. When students interact with problems in a hands-on environment, they develop skills like confidence, determination, and critical thinking that will help them for the rest of their life.

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The Smithsonian Explorer 3D

The Smithsonian, a U.S. government-run set of museums and research facilities, has recently unleashed its Explorer 3D, offering 3D scans of its artifacts for free to the public. The 3D model scans can be viewed online and 3D printed for personal and non-commercial use.

These 3D models are ideal for teaching 3D printing in the classroom as well as educating students about the objects themselves. Students can hold relics in their hands and explore in a way that they could never do even by looking at the objects in person at the museum.

3D Printing in UK Classrooms

Michael Gove, Education Secretary in England, has pledged to add 3D printing to the curriculum of K-12 schools. Gove hopes that the measure will improve England’s role in technology fields and that it will prepare students for the future.

The Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts announced that the UK Government is also investing £350 million to 24 universities to train more than 3,500 postgraduate students in engineering and physical sciences.

Willetts said, “Scientists and engineers are vital to our economy and society. It is their talent and imagination, as well as their knowledge and skills that inspire innovation and drive growth across a range of sectors, from manufacturing to financial services. I am particularly pleased to see strong partnerships between universities, industry and business among the new centers announced today. This type of collaboration is a key element of our industrial strategy and will continue to keep us at the forefront of the global science race.”

Barack Obama’s State of the Union Speech and 3D Printing

President Obama had mentioned 3D printing in his 2013 State of the Union speech as a potential job-creator for the United States.

“Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio,” Obama said. “A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.  There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America.”

With 3D printing growing as a field and creating innovations in the way we make things, it makes sense to educate students in this technology.