2004 saw the first introduction of 3D printers into education, and our first foray into the world of real life, 3D parts being printed. Stratasys were the first to offer this potential to revolutionise manufacturing, and many schools, colleges and universities took the plunge. With the Stratasys Dimension machines costing around £19,000 back then, educators, businesses and designers were quick off the mark to invest in the future of design, manufacturing and engineering.
Fast forward to 2016, and the landscape for 3D printing has completely changed. Prices have plummeted - TechSoft now supply the CEL Robox 3D printer for only £833+VAT - and at the same time we’ve seen significant advances in speed and capabilities.
Avid watchers of the new ‘Robot Wars’ series on BBC2 will have seen 3D CAD software SOLIDWORKS and 3D printers being used to manufacture parts to aid in their battle for victory!
One example of where 3D printing lies with current educators, is at King Edward VI Community College in Devon. Head of Design & Technology, David Irish, has established a specialist 3D CAD learning environment, giving access to 10 individual CEL Robox machines – allowing students a personalised learning space, and real ownership of their CAD design work.
David Irish uses these printers extensively in his classroom projects, as well as running adult learning workshops for the surrounding community. Students, old and new, are keen to get to grips with 3D printing in a practical manner. David encourages students to output 3D CAD designs using the professionally accredited SOLIDWORKS software, with students creating engineering parts for existing products, as well as modifying designs to showcase the iterative design process. David says, “We want to see 3D printers doing useful, real and creative pieces to aid design work. Rather than just a downloaded template, we are now at the stage where we are creating useful product accessories for the school and community.”
And it isn’t just David who is using 3D printing – the CEL Robox and SOLIDWORKS software are being used by more and more schools. With the new curriculum expected to put the spotlight on mathematics and geometry based approaches to design, these tools are becoming invaluable. STEM investigations are leading to useful, real parts and products being made by students and teachers.
If you are inspired to investigate 3D printing further, please contact TechSoft who not only supply the SOLIDWORKS software and CEL Robox machines, but also provide a training booklet to get your started.