Saturday, December 15, 2012

3D Printers: When Will They Be Commonplace?

A New York school teacher emailed me in regards to an article I wrote for InformationWeek on 3D printing and asked me to direct him to some resources that I believed might help him in his quest to write a grant to acquire a 3D printer for his classroom. He also wondered if I was aware of any professional development opportunities, noting that he could not find anything. So, here's what I told him: 

I'm heading to New York this week to ice skate in Central Park with my daughters, but I'm also going to make a pilgrimage to the first ever Makerbot store on 298 Mulberry St., NYC.

Here's a link to Thingiverse:

My favorite "things" are hybrid building blocks created by "UCK" -- though they're not really "blocks." A dad wanted his kid to be able to play with legos, tinker toys, duplos, lincoln logs, etc... in a "cross-connected" way, so he made adapters! Depending on the building system, they might be part lego and part tinker toy... Brilliant. 

One more company I keep tabs on is FableVision -- they're working on a 3D fabricator. They also offer a 2D (paper/card stock printer/perforator) with software for making 3D cutouts, which is pretty intriguing.

Regarding staff development opportunities: You and I are it! I mean, not literally, but this is such a young and vibrant frontier that your observation of a "lack" of PD opportunities is exactly the point: there is a huge void because it's so new. Whoever steps up and offers PD first will stand to make a huge impact, a few bucks (and a name for him/herself). Not that it's about glory or cash, because it's obviously not, but basically, 3D printing is just so new that there really isn't much out there yet. 

When these boxes are $100, or free, it'll be as silly as asking for PD to operate inkjet printers. No one asks for that because their uses are so commonplace and "obvious." 3D printers will be the same way in the next few years -- I'm certain.

What do you think? Is 3D printing the next big thing? How are you using 3D printers in the classroom?

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