Saturday, May 16, 2015

3D Printing Journey

I've really been intrigued by 3D printing for quite some time. My first experiences with the devices left me excited and curious as to how I could use these devices in the science classroom. The timeline reminded me of my introduction to the iPad. I went from the "Wow, holy smokes! I'm sure this can be used to advance and support learning." to "Oh, my gosh...I have so many ideas. I need to get these devices for the classroom." That is my experience with 3D printing. I've read about the advancements in Popular Science magazines, talked with my friend, Jon Jarc about his adventures, and I've periodically checked the blogs and Twittersphere for ideas. This school year, one of my many goals was to secure a 3D printer for the science classroom. I have so many ideas...just needed the $$$!

In talking to another friend, Josh Haplea, I brainstormed some possible science and art projects. I was really excited for the possibility. So, I wrote up a couple grants to try to get funding for this. In the meantime, I chatted up the idea and possibilities of 3D printers with my students, other friends, and my poor husband (who had to listed to way too many ideas this school year). I also looked into 3D Doodler pens as another option. I'm very, very interested in these pens. I even have a GoFundMe Campaign rolling right now to secure a class set.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get a grant this year, and my GoFundMe campaign isn't looking great right now.

On to the good news...
a truly amazing guy, Josh Haplea, used some of his art funding to purchase a 3D printer for us both to share! Yes. Very cool people are out there! I happen to work with an amazing guy.

So, he carried the Dremel 3D Idea Builder up to my science room with spools and spools of colors and said, "Test it out. Have fun!"

Where did we begin? How did we get started?
  • I read through the manual. Watched the YouTube videos. I spent the first week just orienting myself (and my students) with the machine. I had a couple of students that just jumped on board, reading the manual and watching videos.
  • We then learned how to load the filament and created our first print job from the Dremel Idea Builder files. We printed a white tie clip for our principal, Mr. Carter. We even programmed a Lego Mindstorm Bot to deliver the tie clip!

  • Then, we branched out and found a 3D build file that someone else created (not Dremel) that we printed. It was a phone holder. (You should know that almost every 8th grade student that I talked to about 3D printing wanted me to print a phone...not a holder or case...a phone! We had some misconceptions to work on.)
I liked this build because it seemed like the next logical step in our journey. Moving from the Dremel software to an open source file seemed like we were moving forward. This spurred the kids into asking, "Can we create something like this?"

  • That led us to finding some various web based design programs and some iPad apps. We loaded a couple of really cool apps from AutoDesk. We played around with 123D Sculpt+ and TinkerPlay. We absolutely LOVED TinkerPlay. In fact, we designed and sort of successfully printed from this app. We only got the head to print. (The body pieces weren't adhering really well to the platform. We later added painters tape, and it works fine.)

  • We even used a web based program, TinkerCad, to create a 3D award for our head cafeteria cook, Dan!

  • We just keep leading each new experience lead to the next. My students are sharing and learning and loving the adventure. Sure, I have plenty of ideas that could integrate into our science objectives, but for right now...this is the excitement in learning that I'm more interested in students driving.
  • Our final 3D printing adventure of the year involved three of my students creating the "Ultimate 3D Action Figure" using the TinkerPlay app. They used two different colors and designed the figure on the iPad. We then transferred the file to my MacBook with the Dremel3D software. The students wanted to make a larger figure, so we scaled the pieces to 150%. Over a period of 3 days, we printed various files. The students stopped in between nearly each class to see the progress. When we switched the filament from white to red, it was a big moment. :)

What are our next steps...

With summer right around the summer, I have plenty of time to brainstorm ideas. I know that Josh Haplea will have some great ways to integrate the 3D printer into the art classroom. And, maybe we can even come up with a project that will bridge the classes.

I know that this experience was awesome! I look forward to even more #3DPrintingAdventures. The possibilities in our classroom are abundant! 

If you have any ideas to share, please do so! :)


  1. Thank you for sharing you thoughts and experiences on 3D printing. I have a grant from the ministry with a colleague Teachers Leadership, offered in Ontario. We are planning a Maker Space in our classrooms. I am not so sure if you were able to compare 3D printers, I would like your help and experience if possible with the choice of printers. It was recommended to purchase The New Generation Creator Pro than Maker Bot Replicator Mini. Any thoughts? I am just learning, by reading your learning experiences on your blog encourages me to apply this new adventure with the Grade 6 classroom next year. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    1. Absolutely!
      And, thank you for sharing.

      To be perfectly honest, our purchase of the printer was greatly determined by our funds. Our Dremel 3D Idea Builder was affordable, and it had good reviews. Like all the printers out there, we had to get used to the procedures and print builds. But, I really like the final product. However, if you can find a printer that received the job wirelessly, that may be a cool feature. Ours uses cable or SD Card. While it works, I did have a panic moment at one point when I couldn't locate the SD Card!

      I also contacted a retailer in my area to chat about printers. While I didn't go with the style of printer that he recommended (too expensive), I did learn a lot about the entire process.

      I guess I would recommend continued research on your part...who's using what. I would also narrow it down to a handful of printers (based on your funds) and check the specs, reviews, and support site. Dremel is really good with support. They contacted me on Twitter. :)

      I hope this helps. Ultimately, you will make a good choice. Don't worry about that. The process and excitement will make the printer choice a good one!

      Best of luck. Please share some results.

    2. Thank you I am still searching. I look forward to learning from you as well.