Incorporating anything new into the curriculum can be daunting. 3D printing is becoming a necessary skill in tomorrow's workforce and it is crucial that students learn it in the classroom. Here are the best practices to ensure the transition is successful.
1. Use the Workshop Like a Real Business
In a real business, professional designers and engineers do not operate the 3D printers themselves. They pass the files over to a workshop for final production. It's important for students to understand the capabilities of the workshop and for them to learn to communicate efficiently across different teams.
Typically, a college will only run the workshop while classes are in session. Students pay for the cost of the materials to have their design printed. While it is open to all students, most will not use the lab until they are in a class associated with Computer Aided Design. Having the students work in this manner from the beginning and work out issues with their files while in college, sets them up for success in the workforce.
2. Iterate, Iterate, Iterate
It is imperative that students learn that design is an iterative process. Even when a design looks perfect on screen, it could turn out flawed when printed. Little tweaks to the design are a necessary step to get to the desired result. Getting the feedback from the operator on what parts of the file need to be altered will aide in their personal understanding of what is needed to get it right the first time. Faculty can aide in the iterative nature of design with questions that lead to discovery of how the parts should be built.
3. Faculty and Workshop Staff Work as a Team
Communication between all staff involved is crucial to the success of the students communication between all staff involved is crucial to the success of the students' design and final product. Sit down together to go over the outline curriculum to make sure the workshop can produce the projects that are planned. Having this outline and discussion ensures that everyone is on the same page and there are no surprises or hold ups to completing projects. Some workshops work on a first come-first, serve-basis, just like in the real world, so if students want to ensure their project comes out correct they need to plan ahead for setbacks with designs and print time.
4. Choose the Right Tools for the Job
Software is just as important as hardware. Schools strive to teach students on the software that is most likely to be used in the field. This should be the same for hardware. Using professional grade 3D printers give students experience and confidence in the tools they will be using in the workforce. Hobby printers are great for the hobbyist, but not for producing high-quality parts in large volumes. The industrial-grade printers are much more reliable and bulletproof. These industrial-grade 3D printers are more expensive, but the price continues to decrease over time.
There is also the decision that needs to be made about what type of printer will work best for your school. There are multiple things that need to be considered when looking at printers. The process is more of a “this or that” situation. Would it be better to have speed or quality? Will the students need to print in multiple colors or just one? What material will make the most sense for your projects? All of these options can make anyone’s head spin. It is best to get in touch with a 3D printing advisor so they can work with you to find the match to your curriculum.
5. Seek Continual Improvement
The top schools strive to improve their process and curriculum. Providing the most up-to-date education is crucial to preparing students for the future. 3D printing is taking over every industry and just as it is required to know how to use a computer, it will be required to know more about 3D printing. Be prepared for your students so you can prepare them for the future.
Classrooms and curriculums are evolving with the demands of society. Educators are consistently learning new ways to teach and prepare the next generating for what is to come. 3D printing in the classroom will be the norm very soon. It is imperative to keep these 5 best practices in mind when using 3D printing in the classroom to ensure students are ready to be in the workforce.