Are you a Barrier or a Bridge to 3D printing?
Early Adopter or Laggard
We all of us at one stage of being Barriers Bridges Early Adopters Laggards. Whether we move forward is entirely up to us
We often hear the term "Early Adopter", and as far as technology goes this is often meant to positively indicate those who quickly identify where technology can assist with a process or improve workflow.
However, depending on which side of the fence you are, the name tag might be that badge of honour, or sometimes a banner of disgrace, often coined meanly by Laggards. If you are a Laggard, it is odds-on you wont be reading this.
You see, Early Adopters very often are those who want the latest; fanciest; most up-to-date gadget, and very often its these guys who experience the teething issues associated with newest technology variants.
They are the "geeks"; the experts; the jet-setters who tinker, who have time, money and expertise or inside knowledge to capitalise on new technology which might not fit into the workplace.
3D Printing is New...isn't it?
You wouldn't want to buy a Betamax for the classroom, and this stuff is new isn't it?
3D printing has been around for a very long time but actually desktop 3D printing is relatively new, compared to the entire industry which began in earnest back in 1984. The holy grail has always been accessibility to all, and it was the geeks who gave us desktop 3D printing via Rep Rap using fused deposition modelling technology; that is extrusion in the mid-to late noughties.
Shropshire 3D print do offer Cheaper 3D Printers which offer value for voney
But that is a really long time in technology terms, and the rhetorical question the late-adopters would pose is "The technology price will come down as it improves... won't it?"
Well the developments surrounding 3D printing in FDM is more centred upon the following:
- what material you can extrude
- how you can interact with your 3D printer
- The accessibility of CAD to the non-technical
New materials are being exploited all the time for FDM technology used in the desktop 3D printers which extrude a composite polymer with Iron; Wood; Bronze and Stone composites being launched by MakerBot in January 2015.
So not too long from now, you will be able to 3D print in many more materials on a Desktop FDM technology machine
At one time, you would design a model, export it from your CAD system, import it into a "slicing" software, download this onto an SD card, walk over to your 3D printer, insert yor SD card and press "print"
That has all changed and now you can use SD card; USB stick; connect by USB cable; USB stick; Ethernet cable or even WiFi to your 3D printing device.
Latest models have easy on-printer controls, so you can level the build plate; change filament; print from the cloud; take photographs and change the setting on your device.
Now mobile App technology means you don't need to have a PC or laptop, and you can interact with your device via Smart Phone or Tablet.
With 3D model repositories like Thingiverse, which at the time of blogging has over 700,000 free downloadable designs, nobody now needs much or any CAD experience to 3D print.
However, if you do have CAD, and use any of the multitude of CAD systems, you can start from scratch to create your own design, or alter a previous design by importing it and therefore personalise any design, making it unique.
Many CAD packages are open-source especially for education.
Looks or Functionality
So is it now all down to whether you want your 3D printer in the kitchen or the workshop? Is it actually more about whether you prefer an open design which lends itself to the Steam Punk fashion, or a sleek and elegant model?
Well, there is a balance to be struck and some designs are clearly released to pander to current trend. Remember silver "white-goods"? At one time, the only colour you could purchase your new cooker or fridge in was White, the reverse of Henry Fords paraphrased retort "you can have any colour you like as long as it is Black".
Deng Xiaoping said "It does not matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice" and the choice of colour of your 3D printer is as irrelevant, so long as its functionality; accessibility; connectivity and support levels are right for you, which criteria are far more important thank looks.
So actually we should be in the phase of Early Majority for putting 3D printers into schools, yet educators are still hanging back.
Barriers Bridges Early Adopters or Laggards
Speaking to educators, who are all to a man/woman fascinated by 3D printing technology, the question I am most asked is "How does it fit into what I do in the classroom?" and surely the question should be rephrased "What do I need to do to enable this technology for students which will be widespread when my students leave education?"
Our children going through education now, as young as KS1 have grown up with Smartphones (the worlds first is two decades old), and understand Social Media is just another way of communicating (Facebook was born in 2004) and just as importantly they need to be exposed to 3D printing early to learn themselves what they can achieve with the technology.
The major contribution 3D printing brings to education is iteration. We can teach our children that it is OK to fail, and that this is just a milestone on the path to success.
Just like Len Goodman of Strictly Come Dancing fame, we educators need only be one step ahead of students in terms of understanding the moves. Actually, great dancers will go on to choreograph their own dance.
Admittedly it is hard to keep up with changes in technology in the marketplace, but 3D Printing has been around long enough for us to learn the basics so that we can pass on the baton to the manufacturers; designers; architects; engineers; doctors; dentists; fashion gurus of tomorrow
It's exactly the same with 3D printing: whilst educators are obliged in STEM (Science; Technology, Engineering, Maths) to teach our children to Plan; Design; Make and Evaluate right from KS1, in KS2 there has to be an element of CAD.
Please don't forget Arts making the acronym STEAM. Lending itself to Art and Fashion, 3D printing is as important to these streams of education, and when you can scan and 3D print a plant, or 3D print a dissected frog (available on Thingiverse) you can see that biology as another science would benefit. Chemistry also where students can create 3D models of molecular structures bringing their subject to life. History and archaeology too, being able to re-create ancient edifices like the Pyramid of Giza (including its interior). Following ISS projects or probe satellites and being able to print the surface of the Earth another moon or planet is invaluable to understanding geography of our surroundings.
So what is stopping us getting 3D printing adopted by schools? it isnt the students, who are eager to learn, so it must be some teachers, afraid to ask what 3D printing can do.
Don't be a barrier to 3D education, be a bridge...they keys are in your hands.
So if you are an educator get a 3D printer demonstration now from a reputable dealer near you and build a bridge for student learning and understanding of the effects 3D print will have on their STEAM education and their subsequent careers.