Playing with the 3D Printer

We are testing a Makerbot Replicator2 3D printer. The design tech teacher, Garth and myself have a whole bunch of grade 9’s that are in both his tech course and my science class. They have shown quite an interest in the machine and we plan on putting that interest to work while we are testing it.

So far we have had many successful prints, but have also run into some difficulties. Every so often we get a heating error and have to reboot the machine. We have also had to reinstall the software when a “service error” occurs. Printing objects that have a solid base have worked very well so far. On the other hand, printing objects that have overhanging pieces have not worked wonderfully yet. I think we need to practice those prints.

Garth has put in a ton of effort working with new design software, trouble shooting when the machine acts up and generally testing it continuously. One conversation we had was about how to predict how long a print job will take, so we can schedule prints from various departments. Perhaps calculating the volume of a variety of prints (Archimedes principle) and the time would enable us (or the grade 9 math class) to create a function predicting print time. It does depend on the amount of detail as well though… Any ideas?

I was most surprised by the fact that it doesn’t print solid right through the object. It lays down a grid and then fills in the base and top and sides (all outside edges) completely, but not the inside.

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3D Printing – Designing student inquiry projects around design

I may have access to a 3D Printer for a bit. I’d like to design some “design problems” that line-up with our curriculum in my Grade 12 Workplace (SNC4E) science class. Here is an overview of 3D Printing.

Our units of study in Grade 12 Science include:

  • Disease Prevention
  • Workplace Safety
  • Chemical Reactions
  • Electricity
  • Nutrition

Looking through the curriculum, here are some problems that I have thought of that will hopefully lead students to cover many of the curriculum expectations while designing a product or product improvement;

  • People often avoid wearing protective gear when it comes to preventing the spread of disease. For example, rarely do people wear face masks. See how this caused some problems here. How could the design of face masks improve the chances that people will actually wear them, slowing the spread of disease? 
  • People often forget or avoid wearing their safety goggles in the workplace. How could the design of safety goggles improve the chances that people will actually wear them?
  • Packing your own lunch can improve the chances that you will maintain a healthy diet. Zipper baggies and other disposable materials can create a problem for the environment. What type of food containers might make it more likely that high school students would actually pack something healthy from home to take to school?
  • Many workplaces have high noise levels that can cause hearing problems after long-term exposure. Yet, many workers do not wear noise protection. How could the design of ear protection improve the chances that people will wear them, or how could the design make them more effective at blocking out noise?
  • Often chemicals are purchased in bulk to save money. Storage and use of these large containers can be hazardous. What type of container might be safer to store a specific type of chemical in for everyday use?
  • Electrical extension cords often become frayed and dangerous, yet many people continue to use them. How could the design of a new electrical extension cord, or an adapter prevent this dangerous situation?

Do you have any other ideas? Have you used a 3D Printer in your school?