I would like to start a discussion about 3D printers.  Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of using robotics in my Digital Literacy classes.  I thought Lego was mostly geared towards navigating a course.  I also looked at Vex and Hummingbird Robotics as more general purpose and flexible.

I have dropped my investigation in favor of 3D PRINTERS.  3D printers are computer-controlled milling machines that cast small objects out of plastic.  I like it because it a tactile project, similar to robotics.  The objects need to be done using a 3D CAD drawing program.  I think this is a good way to introduce 3D drawing to a broader set of students.  My experience is that 3D drawing mostly appeals to students who enjoy art.  They create interesting drawings using shading and other animation techniques.  With 3D printers, students can draw more ordinary objects - even replicate familiar objects.  It also seemed like a good way to get students to use Google/Trimble Sketchup

My investigation is preliminary and has revealed the following:

  • Sketchup does not create STL files, which are used by 3D printers.  There are add-ins and utilities.  There are also guidelines to ensure that the design can be created using a 3D 3d printer.
  • There are several free Mac and Windows CAD programs.  My next task is evaluate Sketchup+addins versus stand-alone CAD programs.

I would appreciate any thoughts or experiences from others.

Tags: 3D, CAD/CAM, software

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