Week 7: How can 3D printing change the way we think about education?

3D printing.  How will it change education?  Here are some amazing facts about 3D printing.  We have the technology and ability to print food, skin, kidneys, limbs, cars, houses, and guns.  (Federico-O’Murchu, 2014)  Let’s take food for instance.  According to Tom Rawstorne from the Daily Mail in the U.K., there is a company that is selling a printer that can 3D print food such as hamburger, ravioli, and pizza.(2013)  All you do is print the food, bake/broil/fry the food, and eat!  Two of the reasons for creating such a process is to streamline repetitive activities, and allows consumers to prepare food that is time-consuming and hard to make.

How will 3D printing be introduced in the classroom if it already isn’t?  Leapfrog will sell Basic and Educational Kits for classrooms with all the necessary materials and lesson plans directed to elementary or high school students. (2016)  The idea for 3D printing in the class is to capture the interest of students, stimulate interaction, create tangible aids, and allow hands-on learning.  In effect, have a mini makerspace.  This will allow students to become problem solvers and have a growth mindset.  Aren’t these some of the reasons for education?  I think so.  It can be a powerful tool in the classroom.

Since I have an interest in photography, I researched the possibilities for 3D printing in this area.  It has many possibilities as well.  Accessories are one area that 3D printing excels.  You can print card storage cases, lens caps, lens cap holders, lens hood, tilt-shifted lens adapter, and old lens adapters. (Klarmann, 2015)  Here is an example of what a tilt-shifted lens does.

tilt shift lens adapter

This is a real photo of a construction site taken with a digital single-lens reflex camera.  Those are life size excavators and people!  It looks so miniaturized, like a small scale model.  It is great to be able to print your own accessories from existing files, but the real power is in creating your own personalized items.  You can save money and not have to order hard to find items.  Here is a 3D printed pinhole camera.

3D pinhole camera

Not only can you create and print accessories and cameras, but you can create a 3D image called a lithophane.  A lithophane is a 3D print of a photo which uses thickness of print to show various shades of grey when lit from behind.  (Snifikino, 2014)


Amazing possibilities.  And if there is a 3D printer in the class, I believe there is no end to its use as well.  All you need is a little professional development, a 3D printer, and some imagination.

All this is not without some pitfalls.  Depending on your 3D creation, you have to be cognizant about legal, ethical, and health issues.  For example, 100,000 people downloaded plans for a 3D printed gun that was available online before the Federal government ordered it taken off line.  (Federico-O’Murchu 2014)  Laws have have not been created to keep up with the explosion of 3D printed items.  Even if there is 3D printed food, what are the effects of eating such food 10, 20, 30 years from now?  There is simply not enough data to make decisions.  Lastly,  some people think it is all hype.  Just like when computers were invented.  People thought it would change education (I thought it would change the face of education), but over 30 years later, it has not made it into mainstream education.  We still talk about how to use it in the class, and debate it’s viability in learning.



Federico-O’Murchu, L. (2014). How 3D Printing will radically change the world. CNBC TechEdge. Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/2014/05/09/will-3-d-technology-radically-change-the-world.html

Rawstorne, T. (2013). The future of cooking? PRINT your dinner: Don’t scoff – but now 3D printers can make food. DailyMail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2530195/The-future-cooking-PRINT-dinner-Dont-scoff-3D-printers-make-food.html

Leapfrog. (2016). 3D Printers for Education.  Leapfrog. Retrieved from http://www.lpfrg.com/en/professionals/education/

Snifikino. (2014). Lithophanes: 3D Printing your photos! Instructables. Retrieved from http://www.instructables.com/id/Litophanes-How-to-3D-Print-your-photos/

Wikipedia (2014). Lithophane. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithophane

Klarmann, A. (2015). 3D Printed DSLR Accessories for Photographers. ALL3DP. Retrieved from https://all3dp.com/3d-printed-accessoires-for-dslr-photographers/


4 thoughts on “Week 7: How can 3D printing change the way we think about education?

  1. Gerald, I enjoyed reading your applications of 3D printing to photography. It makes me think that if students had this option-to apply the concept to their interest-they would probably come up with some super interesting applications.
    I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that 3D printing has the possibility to teach students to be problem solvers with a growth mindset. This is such a valuable mindset to learn. I was just reflecting on @gkkapatak01’s blog that I know I have written something similar about other topic’s we’ve explored, and I can see 3D printing as an option in a Genius Hour or Maker Space setting with other options for students to create. This way we are responsive to student interests and needs, but not every student is required to use it. Maybe they can express their creativity better in another way…..while still instilling a problem solving attitude.


    • I agree with you. If students apply this to their interests they will create amazing things. We should allow students access to 3D printing for use in all their classes. Especially in their wood working and shop classes. Student may be able to design and print different tools that allow them to do things that the regular tool can’t. For example a student may be working on an ATV in his small engines class. He is having trouble reaching and turning a bolt under the machine. So using 3D printing he designs and prints a wrench that allows him to reach the bolt with ease.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Gerald,
    Printing 3D food, seems like out of the book Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs. I would love to be able to clone my favorite candy bar or a brownie. I agree with you that the 3D technology is such a new invention that having a few solid examples to teach in the classroom will inspire creation. New inventions often do not come with the legal ramifications. It will take some time for the laws to catch up with the technology.



  3. Gerald,
    I am glad you brought up printing food. I got pretty sidetracked in my research and blog post because I am so interested in this idea. Although, unlike Josie who is enthusiastic about this option, I think it’s just creepy However, you helped me to understand how its benefits, to “streamline repetitive activities, and allows consumers to prepare food that is time-consuming and hard to make.” I am still curious, though, where these ingredients will come from and how they will reduce the need to ship food and to raise livestock. Anyway, thanks for touching on a subject I find very interesting!


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