What is 3D Printing?
In its simplest definition, 3D printing is the creation of a 3-dimensional solid object from a digital file. The process used to create the solid object is called additive technology. Just like it sounds, additive technology is the process of laying down successive layers of a material until the object is created.
Is 3D Printing New Technology?
No. 3D Printing was invented in 1983 (35 years ago!) by Chuck Hull and “Rapid Prototyping” was the description given to his new invention. He created it to speed up the long process to have prototypes of products created. Back then, it would take approximately 6-8 weeks using one-off tooling processes. With his new invention, his machine that could print a part in just hours was a major breakthrough within the manufacturing industry.
The first patent issued was for stereo-lithography. Stereo-lithography (SLA or SL) is a process whereby resin is deposited in layers aided by light. While SLA is still relatively common, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is the primary form of desktop 3D printing for the consumer market. FMD is often referred to as Fused Filament Fabrication or FFF. As referenced above, a thermoplastic filament is heated and deposited in a horizontal (X) and vertical (Y) fashion as the object is built up later by later in the “Z” or vertical direction. FDM printers build objects from the bottom up and typically need support structures if the object has overhanging parts more than a 45° angle.
What Types of Materials Are Used?
The most common type of material used, at least for the consumer market is Polylactic acid or PLA. PLA is a biodegradable thermoplastic that is derived from renewable resources like cornstarch, sugar cane, tapioca roots and potato starch. It was a print temperature range: 180°C – 230°C and it used in food packaging, candy wrappers, disposable tableware, disposable garments and more. PLA is low order compared to ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. ABS has the advantage of being strong and slightly flexible but produces mild fumes that might be more irritating to some.
Over the past few years there in an increasing number of types of PLA filaments being produced. Everything from SLAs made-from Hemp or infused with coffee grains or filaments that can be polished into a chrome look, made to resemble wood, or Iron PLA composites that print like a magnet and has bits of iron which will provide a rust-like look if exposed to water. Very cool.
At the Studio, we continually test a number of different filaments to see what works best and what we can bring to students in one of our 3D Printing Clinics held every Sunday.
What Are the Advantages of 3D Printing?
Certainly, in the industrial and manufacturing fields the advantage of 3D Printing is rapid prototyping of a product. It goes well beyond this of course but this was the primary driver for why 3D printing was developed initially.
On the consumer side, 3D printing allows hobbyist to bring their concepts and designs to life. I always say, “if you can dream it…you can make it!”. Just as painting, woodworking, and many other hands-on activities have been embraced 3D printing is a totally new stream that is only beginning to be explored as the price of equipment comes down where it is affordable.
What Is the Right Age to Enroll My Child in a 3D Printing Course?
At my Studio, I like to ensure my students are at least 7 years of age before they enroll in my Introduction to 3D Printing Clinics. There are several reasons for this. Some of the concepts are a little more challenging to grasp and that extra year or two in age helps make the experience more enjoyable. Second, 3D Printing can be a relatively slow process which requires waiting and patience. Again, a year or two helps.
Overall, I want to make sure all my robotics, coding, drone and 3D programs are age-appropriate and offer the best experience for the child.
Why Introduce My Child to 3D Printing?
3D Printing, like robotics, is a great avenue for building STEM and 21st Century skills. I like 3D Printing because it introduces kids to many STEM concepts like materials, measurement, geometry, and more. In our clinics, we start out by building a base-level understanding of 3D Printing and discussing the technology and how it works, the types of materials used and their advantages/disadvantages, etc. and then work through a series of more advanced clinics where we explore how to build support structures, modify existing 3D printed objects, and then start 3D designing and 3D printing their own creations.
Foundation first and then build on this.
It is also a great tool for helping students build 21st Century skills that include problem solving, critical thinking, visualization, and more. 3D Printing requires the students to exercise their brain and think out-of-the-box as they come up with ideas and solutions to address what they want to create.
Lastly, just like robotics and coding are great skills to have on their own and give your child an advantage as our world becomes more digitized, 3D design and 3D printing are great skills too. The power to pull something out of their brain and bring it to life in physical form is amazing! I love to see the smiles each time my students create.
How Do I Get Them Enrolled?
A good way to get started is to enroll your child in one of our 3D Printing Clinics. We hold our Introduction to 3D Printing Clinic every Sunday. The times vary as we hold a variety of other advanced 3D Printing Clinics on Sundays too.
I keep the cost of my Introduction to 3D Printing Clinic lower and include a pizza lunch. My cost is $35 + HST for a two hour clinic.
Registration is required and we keep our classes small. To reserve your spot, call 647-502-6319 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to check on the current times and availability.