Image | Fab Lab Content

3D printers are now becoming more available to schools thanks to falling prices and increased awareness on behalf of academic authorities. These devices, previously only accessible to experts and enthusiasts with sufficient financial resources, are now preparing to land in the classroom and bring three dimensional design and modeling to children.

According to the report NMC Horizons 2015, 3D printing will be widespread in higher education within four to five years.

The fall in price and spread of this technology have facilitated this process which has benefited companies like EntresD. In addition to selling to professional teams it now offers two prototypes that are perfectly suited to the needs of kids. While UP Plus 2 is a bit more complex (it’s used in the School of Design and Engineering of Barcelona), the UP Mini is portable, lightweight and easy to use, perfect for children.

The company is giving away 12 of these printers as prizes for the winners of the third edition of the Mobile Learning Awards, a competition aimed at primary and secondary schools in Catalonia to encourage the use of digital technology in schools. It is an initiative of the Mobile World Capital Barcelona in collaboration with the Government of Catalonia, the City of Barcelona and the GSMA as part of the mSchools program.

“Rather than just being a product to help students learn what a 3D printer is, we believe the devices will be an indispensable tool, a resource that will enable teachers to teach their subjects in a different way,” explains Andreu Bellés, commercial director of EntresD.

At their headquarters in Barcelona they have been giving workshops for adults and children over five years old where they learn how the machines work and make models in three dimensions. “Having a 3D desktop printer in primary and secondary schools allows students to discover the possibilities of 3D design and how easy it is to realize their ideas,” commented Marc Torras, CEO of the company.

At Los Hacedores (Madrid), a 3D workshop and school, they are teaching children between 8 and 14 years to create their toys on the computer using Tinkercard – a simple and free online modeling program with which children can learn to match shapes and volumes to create different objects. These activities help to develop skills such as creativity, innovation, problem solving and spatial intelligence.


Image | Fab Lab Content

Applied to formal education, 3D printing allows you to build three dimensional models to recreate body parts and simulate laws of physics or chemical structures. It provides teachers with a tool to increase the range of educational activities in scientific and technical subjects. Moreover, students can become accustomed to a type of technology that is already used in many professional sectors from aerospace engineering to medicine and cuisine.

However, despite its many advantages, it is not so easy to incorporate this technology in schools. According to Martin Stevens, CEO of IT IS 3D (a British company specializing in 3D printing and education), one of the main reasons is that many teachers are not accustomed to using the machines or don’t feel comfortable with the programs. Torras agrees with him: “It is generally believed that this is a very complex topic, when in reality it is as easy as printing on paper.

For this reason, EntresD has worked with FubLab to edit a book that serves as a guide for teachers. “It contains exercises with different materials to show them how to take advantage of a 3D printer based on their curriculum,” said Borras. The director of the Barcelona company that believes that within a year or two the equipment will be common in all schools.