Competing on the Education Front

Both of the major 3D printer vendors (Stratasys via Makerbot and 3D Systems with the Cube range) are taking education very seriously these days — it’s almost as if they are spurring each other on to do more and more on this frontier. The competition is heating up too, following Makerbot’s ambitious announcement last week, that it wants a Makerbot in every school in the US. So long as it is the kids that win!

Noone can possibly be against more kids being encouraged to get hands-on with 3D printing and associated technologies either. Only last night, at a parents evening at my daughter’s school, I saw first hand (again) some of the benefits of having a 3D printer in the classroom — the creativity and real development of hands-on skills is brilliant. I know there are issues with costs, particularly for the consumables once the printer is delivered, but keeping the momentum going and getting more tech into schools must continue.

The timing of this push into education is obviously a direct result of the entry-level technology becoming available in the last few years, the reduced costs and, of course, word spreading about this “revolution!” Students using the engaging with the technologies now are going to be the next generation of designers, engineers and manufacturers and they’re likely to be working with 3D printers, among other tools, as a matter of course. 3D Systems and Stratasys are pertinently aware of that, finally, and introducing 3D printing brands to youngsters at this early stage will do them no harm whatsoever in the future. I remember a friend of mine (an industry veteran), years ago, telling me that 3D Systems (when the only process they developed was SLA) should put an SLA 250 into as many universities as they could and the pay-off would be huge! Well, economics and H&S were prohibitive, but the principle was absolutely right.

In this vein, 3D Systems continues its march on education and is now partnering with Teach Design for a UK-based education initiative.  This is a slightly different approach though — its about ensuring the teachers are fully prepped to maximize the use of 3D printers in the classroom, not just in design technology but across all areas of the curriculum. Teach Design, a not-for-profit organisation, was set up to provide very low cost training to UK Design Technology teachers, and now twenty regional Teach Design Tech Centres are being established in secondary schools across the UK and will be equipped with 3D Systems Cube and CubeX 3D printers, which will be made available for use across the curriculum by both primary and secondary schools.

The machines will also be made available to STEMNET ambassadors to promote 3D printing in their voluntary work with children.

According to Iain Major, 3D Systems’ UK Education Co-ordinator: “This partnership with Teach Design is very exciting as training is the key to ensuring that both staff and students can get the most from this cutting edge technology. 3D printing is a wonderful medium to allow students to understand the processes of designing for production and discover their innovation potential as we live in the time of the circular economy. It is going to be very exciting to see what students come up with.”

Teach Design’s co-founder Phil Holton said “We are delighted with the generous donation of these fabulous machines. We plan to train thousands of teachers in the use of the Cube and CubeX printers to get the most from using them in class. We will also be publishing lots of project resources for teachers to use with their students.”