The best part of 3D printing

I’ve had my 3D printer for almost two years now and I still love it. While it is fun to find things to print on Thingiverse, this is really more like slow-motion toy shopping.

Yes, you can learn more about 3D printing when you print downloaded models but I get the most enjoyment from creating and modifying my own designs.

Below is an example:


Convert CT scans to 3D print your bones

Last October I fell and broke my wrist. To put everything back together, I had to have surgery so some screws and plates could be used to fix the break. That was the bad news.


The good news is that I got a CT scan of my wrist and the clinic gave me a DVD of all the data.

During my surgery recovery time I decided to see if I could find a way to 3D print my broken bone. After trying several options, I was able to convert my CT scan data into an STL file for 3D printing.

print wrist

If you’d like to try this yourself, you will need to install some software to get started but all the instructions can be found here and in the video tutorial below.

3D design and printing at the elementary level

A few weeks ago I attend an EdCamp where the subject of 3D printing at the elementary level was discussed.

I’ve spent the last few years getting my feet wet in this area and here is what I had to share:

  1. First, students need to be introduced to the concept of 3D. I’ve written about this before and shared some slides and activities to get them thinking in 3D.
  2. Tinkercad is your go-to tool for 3D design. The Tinkercad tutorials are a great place for students to start. I’ve also had many classes of third graders build word blocks as their first project in Tinkercad. In addition, we’ve done the City X Project and created charms about fairy tales in Charmr.
  3. Third grade seems to be the best place to start with 3D design. I’m not saying it cannot be done earlier but I’ve had the most luck with 3rd grade and above.
  4. Don’t overlook the value of introducing the technology to students. Not every student needs to create a 3D model to learn about 3D printing. 3D printers make excellent writing prompts. This is something I’ve used with students starting as early as 2nd grade. Below is a video I made that explores this idea farther. (Also, here are the slides I use with students.)