5 Ways Schools Are Already Using 3D Printing

In an unplanned series of sorts, we’re showcasing a couple of posts about the 2013 NMC/EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Horizon Report for Higher Education. We’ve already talked about the key trends in the report and some challenges we face in implementing education technology, so we’re ready to take a look at the six technologies highlighted in the report as being game-changers for education. We’ve already looked at MOOCs, tablet computing, gamification, and learning analytics. For the first part of the ‘third horizon’, (or entering mainstream use in four to five years), 3D printing tops the list.

We haven’t talked much about 3D printing at all, mainly because the technology isn’t quite mainstream yet. The Horizon Report identified a few early-adopter institutions that are ahead of the game and already putting 3D printing to use. We’ve linked to each of them below (along with the description provided in the report) so you can check out some of what the investigators saw as great examples.

3d printing in schools

3D printing example from Spokane Community College

3D Model Workshops

At Victoria University of Wellington, the Schools of Architecture and Design held a 3D model workshop with metalwork and woodwork machinery areas and a range of 3D digital fabrication and other modeling equipment.

3D Printing at Purdue University

Purdue University researchers are working with Adobe’s Advantage Technology Labs to develop a software application that creates more durable 3D printed objects. Through structural analysis the program identifies problematic areas and offers solutions to create stronger objects using a minimal amount of raw material.

Adding a “3D Print” Button to Animation Software

Computer scientists at Harvard University are developing an add-on software tool that makes it possible to print 3D action figures from computer animation files. The research, conducted in collaboration with graphics experts, enables animators to create replicas of otherworldly creatures by finding the location of joints and gauging the correct size and friction to make them move and pose.


Case Western Reserve University’s new invention center, Think[box], is a space for anyone to creatively tinker, complete with 3D printers, laser cutters, and tools for students to create their own printed circuit board or computerized embroidery.


The ThinkLab is a Makerspace at the University of Mary Washington for hands-on creative inquiry and learning with a variety of high-tech tools, including a 3D printer. In one project students used the 3D printer for prototyping, designing, and creating makeshift solutions to business problems.

1 Comment

  1. Jay

    February 20, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Great stuff. Are there any commercially released 3D printers on the market?