3D Printing & Modeling: A Guide for Parents

Felix_3D_Printer_-_Printing_Set-up_With_Examples
Image via Wikimedia Commons

While you’ve probably heard about 3D printing in the news– they can even 3D print cars now! — you may not be familiar with the technology and skills that 3D printing requires. This guide is designed for parents to learn about this trending technology and understand kids’ growing interest in it.

What is so exciting about 3D printing?

If your student has expressed interest in 3D printing, you’re not alone! Originally invented in 1983, this relatively emerging technology has made headlines and quickly boomed in search volume over the past couple years. This is due in part to the recent improvements in 3D printing, which has made 3D printers much more common and easy to operate. As with many technologies, once it became more publicly accessible, the innovation in the 3D printing space accelerated exponentially.

One of the most exciting improvements include the ability of 3D printers to print with more than one material a time, making the possibilities of what they can print almost endless. From glass to plastic to rubber, many 3D printers today can create incredibly complex objects. These limitless possibilities is what attracts many people to 3D printing.

What is the process for 3D printing?

3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing, which means that the printer adds successive layers of material on top of each other to create a 3D object. A digital file serves as the instructions for the printer and determines the material, shape, and size of the object. The digital file is created through 3D modeling.

What is 3D modeling?

3D modeling is the process of creating a representation of a 3D object, either through 3D rendering or through a computer program. The model is then physically created through 3D printing. There are a number of software programs called modelers that allow users to create any kind of 3D model. In our course 3D Printing & Modeling 1, we teach the popular 3D modeling tool Blender.

Why is this a good skill for my kid to learn?

3D modeling is used in a number of industries, including film (especially animations), gaming, interior design, medicine, and architecture. As a professional 3D modeler, you could specialize in any of these fields. 3D modeling requires skills in design, composition, planning, and versatility.

As a blossoming industry, 3D printing is sure to be a source of thousands of jobs in coming years. Whether your kid is more interested in the design aspect or the operations side, 3D printing is a quickly growing field with plenty of opportunity.

How can my kid pursue a career in 3D printing and modeling?

Getting started with 3D printing is getting easier, thanks to the innovations that make both 3D modeling software and actual 3D printers available to the public. There are a number of 3D printing toys available, such as the 3D printing pen 3Doodler that allows you to draw and create 3D objects from thin air, that are a great way to test out the concept of 3D printing before jumping in. If your kid is seriously interested in a career in 3D printing and modeling, Blender is an open source tool that’s free to download that allows users to create 3D models; however, as a robust, professional piece of software, it is usually easier for students to get started through taking an online course.

The Bottom Line

3D printing is a field of technology that is evolving rapidly, and the possibilities for what 3D printers can create are limitless. If your student is interested in 3D printing and modeling, you can encourage them to pursue a path towards 3D design literacy, which will teach them valuable design skills and perhaps open up a future career path for them!

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