The book that I am reading is called 'Fabricated' by Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman. It covers many uses for 3D printing from household to medical to even printed food that can be eaten!
I was excited to learn that one of my favourite apps - Trimble Sketch Up has a template for 3D printing. This is a great free program that is easy to use. I worked with a small group of students from Grade 4 for extension Math.
To start the lesson I asked the students what they already knew about 3D printing. Some students knew a lot. They knew that you can print edible food, print a car and even print models created in Minecraft.
Next I asked them if they would be interested in making something to be printed. Well, the reaction was of high excitement!
So, onto SketchUp. In advance I had already downloaded and installed this free program on some laptops from the school cart. There is no version of SketchUp for iPad, so the students would need to use a laptop for this task.
Inside SketchUp, there is a special template for 3D printing.You must keep your object within the box as this is the printable size for most 3D printers. I gave the students a lesson on how to create a 3D object using the Push/Pull tool and then asked them to create the first letter in their name. Some students were really quick so I asked them to look at the symmetry and make sure that their letter was properly balanced.
Here is a screenshot of an 'A' created by one of the students. The next job was to Airdrop it to me so that I could further prepare the file for printing.
To prepare the file, I had to export it as an .STL file. This is the file type for 3D printing. It is a good idea to have that exported file checked for errors. In order for a 3D file to be printed, all the surfaces must close properly around the shape. If there are any holes, it will not print. After some research, I learned that there is a free cloud service that actually checks and repairs your file for you. That service is called NettFab. All you do is create an account, upload the .STL file and it will repair it for you. When the file is finished, you just download it ready to use.
Now that I had all the prepared files, I needed to book a time for the 3D printer which is located in the Design Technology classroom in our High School. The teacher there was very kind and helpful. He made a further conversion of our files as the printer requires each file to be put through a program first. This conversion essentially turns each model into layers ready for the printer to process.
On Monday we all walked up to the High School to see the printer in action. Luckily when we arrived, one of the files - this letter A was already in the middle of being printed. It takes over an hour for a 7cm letter to be printed! The printer is already 2 years old and I have read that the new printers are much faster. Here is a film that I made of the printer in action.