What is 3D Printing?

Known in industrial circles as rapid prototyping, 3D printing refers to technologies that construct physical objects from three-dimensional (3D) digital content such as 3D modeling software, computer-aided design (CAD) tools, computer-aided tomography (CAT), and X-ray crystallography. A 3D printer builds a tangible model or prototype from the electronic file, one layer at a time, through an extrusion-like process using plastics and other flexible materials, or an inkjet-like process to spray a bonding agent onto a very thin layer of fixable powder. The deposits created by the machine can be applied very accurately to build an object from the bottom up, layer by layer, with resolutions that, even in the least expensive machines, are more than sufficient to express a large amount of detail. The process even accommodates moving parts within the object. Using different materials and bonding agents, color can be applied, and parts can be rendered in plastic, resin, metal, tissue, and even food. This technology is commonly used in manufacturing to build prototypes of almost any object (scaled to fit the printer, of course) that can be conveyed in three dimensions.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Rare and specialized objects from collections can be made available to online students in their homes for examiniation and scientific manipulaton. - deborah.cooke deborah.cooke Sep 6, 2016
  • Students design and develop/create products as part of their project work at our university, Singapore University of Technology and Design - nacha_sockalingam nacha_sockalingam Sep 8, 2016
  • The creation of 3D printed objects can be immensely useful in our schools of Fashion, Art and Design, allowing our students to create tangible objects from their virtual models quickly and relatively inexpensively as one offs. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Sep 20, 2016

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • This can be for creating 3D architectural modeling, or for making synthetic bio polymeric materials/objects.- nacha_sockalingam nacha_sockalingam Sep 8, 2016
  • The polymer materials used by 3D printers often result in objects inferior in quality to those that have been created using conventional manufacturing methods and, in engineering for example, may only provide a temporary solution to a problem. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Sep 20, 2016
  • 3D printers are a popular component component in many maker spaces. They are useful as a prototyping tool and as new materials become available, they may well challenge conventional manufacturing, particularly in cases where limited numbers of an item are needed, such as spare parts.- billshewbridge billshewbridge Oct 1, 2016
  • Why is this separate from MakerSpaces? - tom.haymes tom.haymes Oct 28, 2016

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • This technology extends the reach of valuable and rare collections to greater numbers of students. - deborah.cooke deborah.cooke Sep 6, 2016 - helga helga Sep 19, 2016
  • This will become important in design and development modules such as capstone projects, and it has vast applications. This will become more prevalent and cost effective in time to come. - nacha_sockalingam nacha_sockalingam Sep 8, 2016 - helga helga Sep 19, 2016
  • Often found in makerspaces, 3D allows students to prototype their ideas and work on world problems - mayaig mayaig Oct 3, 2016

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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