3D Printing Activity Categorization

Posted by Marlo Steed on June 10 2020 at 8:42 p.m.

  • Yes, those outcomes are possible. However, do the outcomes depend on the nature of the 3D printing activity? For instance, do all 3D printing activities foster problem-solving? Too often, with technology integration, we ascribe outcomes without considering how the technology is used. For instance, many 3D printing activities use 3D printers merely as a manufacturing plant; download and reproduce an object. In this case, the problem-solving outcomes are minimal or nonexistent.


  • Thanks for your paper. I see 3D printing as a great topic to support many subjects. In mathematics, it can be used to support learning at many different levels: orientation, scale, coordinates, parameters, forms, geometry, design etc.. Of course many other subjects can be supported as well. The simple systems for printing and prototyping (hot glue gun approach, light cured resin based and sintering systems) are very interesting to learn about, but are just one part of the whole system that can be taken further to support other forms of manufacturing. One of the challenges with 3D printing is production at sufficient speed/throughput to allow a whole class full of students to remain engaged (also yield, technology issues, etc.) - what recommendations do you have?


  • I was playing with a Printrbot system a few years back, and was quite excited, but never had an opportunity to use it in the classroom. Then we were off in China for a couple years, and I made a point of looking for 3d printers in the elementary schools that I visited (the government had decreed that every elementary school would have one). Each school could bring me to a room where there was a printer, and the artifacts created were very similar to the ones I and others were creating in Canada (mostly downloaded designs, some modified, some parametric, some unique), and typically there would be one teacher who had chosen (or been asked) to develop some expertise. Part of the struggle is the relatively high threshold (how do I do this) and friction (how much time and effort do I have to put into making this work in my classroom).


    • Hi Timothy, 3D printing does pose a number of challenges to making instructional decisions in the regular classroom. I have been involved in a number of projects. One pragmatic approach is to make it a work station approach so that only a small group of students are involved at a given point in time. A small group works on it for a month and then another group gets their turn. Jigsaw learning could be used to give students the opportunity to train their peers. Another approach is to have the entire class work in groups to design and ultimately print their creations - thus reducing the time and addressing the logistical issues - instead of 28 prints you might be dealing with 6. I also always provide dimensional constraints to the assignment so the files don't take as long to print.

      Posted in reply to Timothy Pelton

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