Can 3D Printers Revolutionize Education? One Michigan Engineer Thinks They Just Might

Twelve teams of Michigan teachers are visiting Michigan Technological University (MTU) this week to get some hands-on experience with 3D printing technology. Here they’ll learn about the emerging trend of creating tangible objects from 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) models and even build their own units to take back to the classroom with them.

The workshop is sponsored by GM, PACE (Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education) and Square One, a nonprofit educational organization. While there, the teachers will be under the guidance ofJoshua Pearce, associate professor of materials, science, electrical and computer engineering at MTU. Pearce has plenty of experience working with 3D printers and collaborates with hardware and software designers to develop future models and designs of 3D printers. Pearce and a team recently released a study which found families can save a significant amount of money by printing common household items at home rather than buy them online.

3D printing, or turning digital 3D CAD models into tangible, real-life objects, is currently experiencing a boom thanks to increasingly cheaper units and a thriving community of “creators,” fans who design the CAD models and share their ideas with one another. As such, many are looking to this technology to completely revolutionize the way people buy products online or create their own goods at home.

Printers like the open source RepRap unit or MakerBot’s Replicator 2 have so far been used to generate replacement body parts (human ears and duck feet), playable vinyl albums (though in Lo-Fi quality), and even aprintable plastic handgun that actually fires.

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