3D printing is becoming more common at schools across the world, but there's still a skills gap in using this new technology.
To help overcome that gap, Thingiverse, an online repository of 3D printing designs hosted by the 3D printer manufacturer MakerBot, recently launched JumpStart — an online resource for newcomers to the 3D design discipline. JumpStart is geared specifically with early learners in mind, says Laura Taalman, MakerBot’s senior product manager for education.
Despite the fact that 3D modeling is a burgeoning market, there's a dearth of entry-level software to orient newcomers, says Taalman.
"Educators are saying, 'We want our students to use Thingiverse, but we also want the students to create their own stuff, not just download other people's stuff,'" she says. "The current resources to tell people how to do that are limited."
Unlocking the potential in 3D printing can only begin when users learn how powerful and useful the technology can be. Otherwise, why would they invest in it?
"If you don't know how to make a rudimentary Word or Excel doc, then you wouldn't own a 2D paper printer. They need to be able to create their own 3D designs,” Taalman says of students. “We have to catch everyone up to learn how to make that stuff. It's not as hard as you think. An 8-year-old can sit down with the software and begin creating very quickly."
JumpStart has begun small, with just five recommendations so far. Taalman says she expects that list to grow along with the evolving disciplines within 3D printing.
The five premiere services listed by JumpStart are: Thingiverse for design ideas; Printshop for creating 3D models on a tablet; Tinkercad for creating 3D designs based on simple shapes that can manipulated using a mouse; Sculptris for digital sculpting, and OpenSCAD for creating 3D designs using simple code. JumpStart offers an abundance of information and images to help orient newcomers to the services.
Every service listed on JumpStart is free and most are available on multiple platforms.