May 29 2019

3D Printing Curricula Accelerate the Next Generation of Innovators

3D printing will be ingrained across industries, which makes it essential to teach students the proper skills before they graduate.

As with other leaps forward in science, technology, industry and culture, universities play a central role in driving disruption. One such example? The introduction of 3D printing on campus is transforming the entire culture of design, creating a new breed of innovators.

3D printing is changing the face of manufacturing, from engineering and design to operations and supply chain. Demand for students who can “think in 3D” will become increasingly urgent as the adoption of 3D printing accelerates.

The field is brimming with potential for universities. Departments that take advantage of this trend will find themselves and their organizations well-positioned for innovation and growth.

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out 3 ways universities are expanding their 3D printing programs.

Develop 3D Printing Skills and Confidence Among Students

Students may not be familiar with how and when to use 3D printing to solve problem sets. To prepare them, professors need to teach students to use a wide variety of machinery, ranging from the consumer-grade printers they knew in high school to the complex devices used in in modern-day manufacturing. 

At the University of Pennsylvania, architecture students begin their journey with desktop MakerBots, using 3D printing software to produce small prototypes, according to Winka Dubbeldam, chair of the school’s graduate architecture program. 

From there, students progress to a host of 3D printers, connected through a smart cloud network to produce multiple parts that are formed into a single product. 

After they have mastered the smaller printers, students graduate to large-scale industrial machines housed in a retrofitted warehouse.

“There is really a revolution of what design is, what a structure is,” Dubbeldam tells EdTech. “Before, our structural classes would traditionally be given by an engineer, and then students would leave and work in a design studio. 

Now, engineers are working directly with students in the design studio, preparing our students to really understand how engineering should be thought of and what kind of discussions you should have with an engineer.”

Unlock Creativity with Rapid Prototyping

Students learn by doing. The faster the design cycle, the more students who can get real-time feedback on their ideas. 

It’s important to look at 3D printers that reduce the turnaround time of prototyping from weeks to days, enabling students to repeatedly test and refine without waiting. 

Students using 3D printing technology, for example, can move to full-scale production once their prototypes are complete. This technology will help prepare them for what they’ll see and experience when they start their careers.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Dremel DigiLab 3D45 3D printer makes creation fast and easy.

Think Differently with a New Design Mindset

A centerpiece of what 3D printing enables is freedom of thought, allowing students to use their creativity to design something unique

Students can rethink their entire approach toward making parts and products, opening up a new world of 3D design and application possibilities.

Leading 3D software companies have harnessed this disruption by incorporating support for 3D printing technology into their products both early and effectively. 

Continuous Learning Is Key to 3D Printing Program Success

The disruptive promise of 3D printing and digital manufacturing is massive and has the potential to help make life better for everyone, everywhere. This industry isn’t standing still. Every day, innovators are using new tools and creating applications that will have a meaningful impact on people around the world.

That’s why it’s paramount for professors to push their students to continue learning new ways to solve problems with 3D printing. 

At Clemson University, for example, students are advancing innovation in the colleges of engineering, computing and applied sciences. 

Professors can also augment their own deep knowledge by expanding outside the education arena. Consider learning from the automotive industry, for example, where manufacturers such as Volkswagen are embracing 3D printing in their long-term roadmaps.

By developing 3D printing capabilities, professors are not only raising the institutional profile of their universities; they are empowering their students to hone their 3D printing skills to become even more competitive in the digital manufacturing workforce and entrepreneurial communities of tomorrow.

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