You may have started to recently hear a lot about 3D printers; with prices dropping, more high schools and universities are purchasing 3D printers for use with their students. It may not be long before elementary and middle schools follow suit.
So what are 3D printers? 3D printing allows you to create solid three dimensional models from a digital design. By laying down successive layers of material, the printer “builds” a three-dimensional model based on your specifications. With basic models running in the range of $3000 to $5000, the 3D printer may soon be a common sight in classrooms. Think of the educational possibilities of having your students design and create their own mathematical models and virtual manipulatives!
You can view ideas here to get a sense of what is possible with 3D printing. 3D printing companies are also springing up around the country, allowing you to send designs and make use of their 3D printing capabilities. Shapeways is one such example, and they have some great videos demonstrating the process, as well as really cool examples of products created by users – everything from jewelry to toy trains to lamps and more!
Check out this video for an interesting overview of 3D printing: