Some people think 3D printing is taking away jobs by automating the manufacturing industry. Others think it’s a revolution in engineering. In this lesson, we’ll look at some of the reasons for the hype surrounding 3D printing, focusing on health and wellness.
Surprisingly, 3D printers have been in development since the 1980s. Charles Hull was the first person to patent the technology in 1986. Throughout the late 80s and the 90s, many companies focused on building 3D printers to be used for industrial design, to create prototypes. Because these printers were very expensive, only large corporations could afford to use them. In the mid-2000s there was a divide in the 3D printer industry. Though there were still innovations being made for the high-priced printers, there was a movement towards making 3D printers more affordable for the home or office. In 2009, the first commercial 3D printers were created by RepRap and MakerBot. By 2012, there were many 3D printer prototypes being funded on Kickstarter. Today a 3D printer can be purchased for around $1,000, but you don’t even need to own a printer to create a 3D object. You can send a file to a company like Shapeways or 3DHub to have it printed and shipped to you at a relatively low cost.
3D printing is an industry that’s developing extremely rapidly. The way 3D printers work is similar to a standard inkjet printer, but instead of ink, they use a different material and apply it in layers. Usually a photopolymer resin is used, which can be melted and resolidified with ultraviolet light. The photopolymer is spread out and is built into a 3D object by printing many layers on top of each other. This process is called additive manufacturing, because it involves building layers of material (as opposed to subtractive manufacturing, which is like sculpting – cutting away pieces of material). It’s a simple way to make a solid plastic object without much heat in a precise manner.
This lesson will look at some of the things that are currently being made with 3D printers. Students can make their own informed decision on 3D printing’s positive and negative impacts. They can also design their own 3D printed innovations and envision what the future holds for 3D printing.
Some media may contain mature content. Discretion is advised when viewing with students.
Animation about 3D printing
3D printed dog prosthetic legs
e-Nable 3D printed prosthetic project
Simple SketchUp tutorial:
SketchUp tutorial for designing objects for 3D printers:
Learning Objective: Students will learn basic information about 3D printing.