3D Printing at Beauvoir! - Wait... What?

So... I haven't blogged in over a year, but thanks to Colleen Williams for sharing this article with me - 3-D Printing Classes In a Virginia School Attract Global Visitors She has inspired me to blog once (hopefully not just once) again to share something we have been experimenting with over here in the Tech Office!  

If you have stopped by or passed through recently, you may have noticed a weird aluminum robotic cube that looks like this:

And you might be wondering.... "What IS that thing?"

Well... I't a 3D printer. Yes... It melts and prints plastic (others printers can print in other materials like clay, cement, or even metal) in three dimensions. Not just the X and Y axis like those boring "paper printers"... but Z too!

OK, so here is what I know so far with a few site links that might be helpful in getting a grasp on this idea. Please share this with whoever you think might be interested.

                http://store.solidoodle.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=79 This is the 3D printer that we currently have if you wanted to learn a bit more about it. It is a bit of a “bare bones”, “No frills”, DIY printer and can be a bit “high maintenance”, but has proven to work quite well as a proof of concept.
                http://store.makerbot.com/replicator2x.html - This is the 3D printer that will be arriving over the summer. I believe it will prove to be much more user friendly, versatile, and output a much cleaner finished product.
            http://www.engadget.com/2013/01/29/3d-printer-guide/ - Here is an extremely comprehensive line up of the plethora of 3D printers on the market today… the consumer variety anyway.


            ATTENTION TEACHERS - If you click on only ONE link in this post… LET IT BE THIS ONE!
            http://curriculum.makerbot.com/ - This is a link that will give you a wealth of ideas on how it can and is being used in the classroom and is organized by discipline and software used.

            SOFTWARE and “THINGS”:

            http://www.thingiverse.com/ - This is the mother-load of 3D objects and “shapes” or "things" created, customized, and shared by other members of the 3D printing community. The objects that I have printed so far have all been downloaded and customized (if a customizable shape) from this website. The site works best in the Google Chrome Web Browser. It is a great place to get started and to see what other folks are creating using other software. You cannot create anything from scratch here, only download and or customize shapes created and uploaded by other users.
            http://www.3dtin.com/ - This site (also working best in Google Chrome Web Browser) is, in my opinion, where we can get creative with our students. This IS a site that you can create things from scratch to then be uploaded to Thingiverse. I like to think of it as building with virtual Legos because it can be that easy. I personally have found it to be the easiest (although challenging at times) of the programs available to use… and it’s free and web based! There seems to be plenty of tutorials available on the site itself or on YouTube. I have also tried Sketch Up and Open SCAD but they don’t seem to be as simple and user friendly (AT ALL) for our age group of students or for Me for that matter.

            3D SCANNING: What’s that you ask?

            I have been testing a bit with 3D scanning to create digital 3D renderings from live objects that can then be printed… in 3D. This is another area that might be good to explore with our kids. The three things that I personally have been experimenting with are:
            http://www.123dapp.com/catch/ - This software allows you to take 360 degrees of pictures and stitch them together to make a digital 3D model of whatever you photograph. I haven’t been too successful with it yet but have to admit that I haven’t had the time to even scratch the surface of the capabilities yet.
            http://reconstructme.net/ - This software allows you to use a Kinect (yes… like the one for an Xbox 360) to scan objects and digitize them in 3D. I haven’t had much success with this yet either, but again, I haven’t even scratched the surface.           
            http://skanect.manctl.com/ - And finally, this software also allows you to scan with a Kinect. I found this to be much easier to use than ReconstructMe but yet again have been unsuccessful in producing a usable scan. I continue to test and play and fail… on a daily basis… or as much as my time allows.

            The technology is still in its infancy so new and exciting developments are popping up every day and I am trying to keep up, with moderate success. I just can’t imagine where this technology will be in the years to come and how it will affect Business, Economics, Entrepreneurialism, Engineering, among others, but mostly EDUCATION! To me… this is a game changer and we might be experiencing its tipping point, we just don’t know it yet!
            Well…. That pretty much sums up almost all that I know about 3D printing so far. I'm still quite a Noob but continue to research every day. There obviously is a lot more to know than what I can cram in this post as well.
            If you have any questions along your discovery, please don’t hesitate to contact me because I might have the same questions or may have some answers. Besides, I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on all of this. Does it fascinate any of you as much as it does me? I can't get enough of it. And everyone I know that has seen it in action, including and really... mostly the students, are in awe! No problem with engagement here!
            In the meantime, I leave you with one more link for those of you who enjoy unique (3D printed) jewelry...
            ...and this video (Thanks Brian Roche) that will hopefully tie most of this together. Here you go.... I hope you found this post to be informative and inspiring. I look forward to hearing your comments.