Visitors to Mr. Salaban’s classroom have noticed some changes. There are some fascinating new machines buzzing along. At first glance, students wonder what it is. But, with a further look, students notice the machines are making objects. These exciting machines are able to create objects—from what appears to be nothing! The machines are 3D printers. Yes, you can create 3D objects on a computer and print them out. Futuristic? Nope. 3D printing is a reality today. Welcome to 21st century “techy tech!”
So, how does it work? Well, the printer doesn’t actually make something from nothing. A student is able to use Rhino 3D software to design a digital object or surf a website called Thingiverse to download an already-made digital object. This digital object is then “sliced,” using Simplify3D software. The result is a file the 3D printer, a Makerbot Replicator 2, can read. 3D printers have been described as “Etch A Sketch meets hot-glue gun.” For example, in a 3D printer, a thin plastic filament is fed through a hot nozzle. The nozzle moves around on a build plate outlining the printed object. The time it takes to complete an object ranges from an hour to several hours. 3D printing is exciting and you’re only limited by your imagination!
So, where do you begin? A good start is a tutorial from within the Rhino software that teaches you to make a toy duck. The tutorial goes step-by-step to teach you how to create the duck toy by creating free-form shapes. For instance, from within Rhino, students have a lump of “virtual clay” that can be pulled, squeezed, pitched, etc. into the duck shape. When completed, the duck toy is saved into a file the 3D printer can read. You can also work through the Rhino 3D web tutorials or the keychain project.
Not only are 3D printers in Brian Cardarella’s (Lakes) and my CADD classes, but the ILC at Antioch got a Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printer. Three students in particular—Shenal Mekson, Dominic Olesak, and Cody Phillips—have been assisting Mrs. Mason. Mrs. Mason remarks, “In all my years of teaching, I haven’t seen this much excitement for a new technology. Not only were those students instrumental in our getting a 3D printer this semester, they have been training other students. When another group of students learned we had a 3D printer, they literally ran through the ILC (sigh) to find it. Their response, “This is history in the making!” Each hour, I have students staring at the printer watching what is being made.”
Teachers are also beginning to figure out how they can use the 3D printer in their classes. In particular, Ms. Buzby asked Dominic to help her with a project. Ms. Buzby said, “I described a map/model that we could pour water over and as we add more water, we could simulate the effects of sea level rise. As the map/model needs to be water tight, have a rim around the edges, and be accurate, it created a few constraints on our design. We looked into using Thingiverse, but the website only had landscape models. After some searching, we found an online tutorial that showed how to access google Earth files, export them to Photoshop, and recreate the landscape in 3-D. With that, Dominic is going to *try* to make a 3D relief map of the earth.”
Teachers from all subject matter can explore the use of 3D printing in their classroom. For example, the 3D printer can be used to create cell models, organ cross sections, and simple machines in science classes. Math teachers can 3D print geometric shapes, puzzles, and shapes for volume calculations. A Family Consumer Science teacher can print custom cookie cutters, measuring utensils, or preschool toys. The possibilities are endless!
We are excited to further explore the use of this new 3D printing technology. Stop by my room (128), Brian Cardarella’s room (C242B), or the ACHS ILC to discuss what you will 3D print!