Miller Blog

I Blog on EdTech, Web 2.0. Learning Strategies, Marketing & Higher Education (especially two-year colleges)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

3-D Printing: On the Verge of Something Really Big

I am fascinated with 3-D printing.

In 2004, The NMC: The New Media Consortium created its first edition of its signature publication, The Horizon Report.  I was fortunate enough to have been a member of that publication’s editorial panel and can clearly recall the discussion we had around RAPID PROTOTYPING – a technology we now think of as 3-D printing.  The panel recognized that a growing number of colleges and
universities were experimenting with rapid prototyping for fast and cost-efficient creation of models and parts.  The 2004 Horizon Report projected that the availability of 3-D printers would spread once the price of the units came done.
The recently published 2014 Horizon Report identifies 3D printing as a “Technology to Watch” with a time-to-adoption projection of two to three years.  It describes the technology this way:

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, or metal. 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.
Ten years later, the current NMC panel is even more enthusiastic about the technology.  And, there are scads
of examples of how it is being used regularly in educational settings – both formal and informal.

I can affirm that this technology is here now – at least in Chattanooga.  The Chattanooga Public Library 4th floor has a 3-D printer that is available for use to members of the public.  I used this device to make my first 3-D object – a very small figure of Totoro, the iconic
anime character.  They have since added a second printer with the capacity to produce larger objects.  You can read a story - The Boundless Possibilities of 3-D Printing  - on how Chattanooga has embraced 3-D printing in, a local news website focusing on business, government and lifestyle in the Chattanooga area.

You should also read a recent article in Campus Technology, one of my favorite publications - Print Your Own 3D Learning Objects.  The article describes how faculty and students at the University of North Georgia are using 3D printing to create low-cost orthotics and assistive devices for disabled children and other applications of this “disruptive technology.” This article also provides some resources for those interested in learning more about 3-D printing in education.

Autodesk AutoCAD: commercial 3D modeling software
Autodesk Maya: commercial 3D animation software
Blender: free, open source 3D creation software
Dassault Systems SolidWorks: commercial software for engineering design
Trimble SketchUp: a commercial design program that includes 3D modeling
Trimble SketchUp Make: a free 3D drawing tool

Printer Options - Hobbyist 3D Printers (sub-$3,000)
Afinia H-Series

No comments:

Post a Comment