By James Floyd Kelly
One of the biggest tech trends to follow is the evolution of 3D printing -- not just in the consumer market, but also in education. In fact, last month, the NMC Horizon report predicted that 3D printers will be seen in schools in the next five years, as students and teachers experiment with creating real objects out of plastic and other materials.
Just 10 years ago, this technology was priced in the $100,000+ range, completely out of reach of schools or homes. Today, an easy-to-use use (and build) 3D printer kit such as the Printrbot Simple costs a fraction of that -- at $300, on the low-end of the hobbyist 3D printer market. (Most hobbyist-level 3D printers that would be suitable in a school or home run between $300 and $3,000 depending on the bells and whistles.)
Why would a teacher or parent be interested in purchasing a 3D printer? To print out a life-sized heart that can be disassembled piece-by-piece and examined closely; to print out one-of-a-kind LEGO pieces that can be used in custom models; to create your own cookie cutter molds. In essence, to leverage the benefits of spatial learning, or thinking in 3D.
Most 3D printers can be purchased pre-assembled (or Out-of-the-Box) – simply unpack it, connect it to a computer, install the software, and it’s ready to go. The other solution is a 3D printer kit that must be assembled by the buyer. Some prefer this solution because it's cheaper (kits are usually $100 or more less than a pre-built unit) but also in order to learn how everything works. There’s often no better way to know how to repair something than by initially putting it together and knowing what goes where and how all the parts work together.