In the decades since it was unveiled, 3D printing and the technologies related to it have evolved immensely. Strides continue to be made with 3D printers, which makes using the technology more and more advantageous to a wide variety of people. Knowing this, a variety of groups are attempting to bring the technology to users of tomorrow: today’s kids. To discuss how 3D printing is being brought to the American youth and the impact that it will have, Product Design & Development held a question and answer session with John Hornick, author of the recently published book 3D PrintingWill Rock the World.
PD&D: What group do you believe has been the biggest proponents of assimilating more 3D printers into schools? Is it the teachers, administrators, parents, or is it those directly involved with the 3D printing and scanning industry?
Hornick: It is primarily the makers of consumer-grade 3D printer makers. Companies like MakerBot andAirWolf have programs to donate machines to schools, or to provide them at a discount. The second biggest proponents are probably teachers and maybe administrators. Parents, not so much, yet. But once they see that 3D printers in schools can teach kids valuable skills for future jobs, and can be used to teach STEAM education as well, they will be insisting that kids have them at school and at home.
MakerBot launched the MakerBot Academy to put a MakerBot 3D printer in every American high school. For colleges, MakerBot launched MakerBot Innovation Centers. The first center, at the State University of New York at New Palz, is making more than 30 3D printers available for free use by students and faculty.
PD&D: Would it be advantageous to implement these technologies into the curriculum when the children are near the beginning of their educational career? Is there an age where the students are too young to begin working with the technology?
Hornick: Ed Morris, the Director of America Makes, says that we need to teach 3D printing to people “K through Gray.” I totally agree. Of course you need a really safe printer for really young kids, like thePrinteer. As long as it’s safe, I don’t think there is a minimum age. It depends on the kid.
PD&D: In your estimation, how much of a curriculum can you build around 3D printing and scanning? Could you create several classes potentially devoted to the technology?
Hornick: Yes. You could build a program for each grade, teaching machines, processes, materials, and scanning. Because there are many types of 3D printers and many levels of machines, curricula could teach the technology progressively over the span of their entire education, outfitting kids to work in digital manufacturing.
PD&D: What types of classes does 3D printing and scanning technology fit in with the most?
Hornick: It fits into all types of classes. Some teachers use 3D printers to teach 3D printing. Others use them to teach STEAM education.