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Preparing Future Innovators: The Benefits of 3D Printing in Education

3D printers are becoming increasingly common in K-12 classrooms, computer labs, and libraries across the US. The innovative technology is revolutionizing the way we approach education, offering students and teachers alike a new way to explore and create. You might be wondering… “What exactly is 3D printing?”, “How is 3D printing used in education?”, or “What can you use 3D printing for in the classroom?”

From science and engineering to art and history, 3D printing is opening up a world of possibilities for hands-on learning and innovation. Read on and explore the many ways 3D printing is transforming education and how to get started with this exciting technology in your own classroom.

Hey, teachers… If you’re short on time, and looking for help teaching your students the basics of 3D printing, click here.

This image shows a variety of small 3D printed objects. The text reads "Why are 3D printers taking over in K-12 schools?"

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is a type of manufacturing that creates three-dimensional objects from computer generated designs. In traditional manufacturing methods, material is taken away from a solid block to create the desired shape. Whereas, 3D printers build objects layer by layer. This is additive manufacturing.

The 3D printing process begins with creating a three dimensional drawing using computer-aided design or CAD software. Next, the digital drawing is sent to a slicer program where it is broken up into the horizontal layers. The slicer program creates the path the 3D printer nozzle will follow as it builds up the design. Finally, the design is goes to the 3D printer where filament creates the physical object layer-by-layer.

The printing process can be lengthy depending on the size of the object being printed, the printer, and the printer settings. But the excitement of seeing your creations come to life makes it well worth the wait!

How is 3D printing used in K-12 education?


3D printing is a powerful tool for enhancing STEM education. With 3D printing, students can create physical models of complex concepts, allowing them to better understand and visualize abstract ideas. For example, students can print models of molecules, cells, and organs to better understand biology, or print models of geometric shapes to better understand math. Additionally, 3D printing is great for creating prototypes of inventions, allowing students to test and refine their ideas in a hands-on way. By incorporating 3D printing into STEM education, students can develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and design skills that will prepare them for future careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Art and Design

3D printing isn’t limited to STEM education, it also enhances art and design instruction. With 3D printing, students can create intricate and detailed sculptures, jewelry, and other art pieces that would be difficult or impossible to create by hand. Additionally, 3D printing allows for rapid prototyping in design, allowing students to quickly iterate and refine their designs. By incorporating 3D printing into art and design education, students can develop creativity, problem-solving, and technical skills that will prepare them for careers in the arts and design industries.


3D printing can be a valuable and innovative tool in history classes, enhancing students’ learning experiences and understanding of historical subjects. 3D printers can replicate artifacts, which allows students to handle and examine rare and delicate materials. Also, students can use 3D printers to create historical models and recreate ancient objects. The tangible representations of history help students visualize and better comprehend important historical events. Educators can use 3d printing to bridge the gap between the past and present, making history more accessible and relevant to their students’ lives.

And Beyond…

3D printing offers exciting opportunities for innovation and creativity in just any subject. Students can create and print custom musical instruments. Print custom or replacement parts for robots. Create and sell decorative items for school fundraisers. Encourage independent reading with 3D printed bookmarks… the possibilities are truly endless!

Future of 3D Printing in Education

The future of 3D printing in education is bright, with more and more schools and universities incorporating this technology into their curriculums. As 3D printing becomes more accessible and affordable, it will continue to revolutionize the way students learn and create. In the future, we may see 3D printing used for everything from creating prosthetics and medical devices to building entire structures and homes. The future of 3D printing in education is sure to be exciting.

Need More Support with 3D Printing in Your Classroom?

Introducing students to the basics of 3D printing can be tricky! This introduction to 3D printing unit will engage and amaze your students as they learn the fundamentals of 3D printing. The bundle includes over 100 pages of resources. Use them individually where they fit best within your STEM course or teach them in sequence as a 5-week unit.

This image shows a document titled "Unit Plan: 3D Printing and CAD." The text reads "3D Printing: Over 100 pages, printable and digital."

The lessons include:

  • 3D printer parts and functions
  • 3D printer safety
  • CAD instruction
  • The 3D printing process
  • Real-world applications and impacts of 3D printing
  • 3D printing projects
  • …and more!

Grab these lessons today to get back your nights and weekends, while your students are learn the basics of 3D printing!

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