3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of creating a three-dimensional object from a digital model by gradually applying thin layers of material. 3D printing technology has taken off in popularity as it has become increasingly used throughout a wide range of disciplines and professions.
This growing popularity stems from the multitude of advantages that 3D printing has to offer. 3D printing provides an economic benefit as it reduces the overall cost of production, while also saving time as it offers a significantly faster manufacturing process than more traditional production methods. Perhaps even more exciting is the freedom that 3D printing allows in the design process, enabling more possibilities with fewer technical restraints. Lastly, 3D printing is enabling the emergence of a truly “on-demand” production process and mass-customization.
Even the face of home construction and architecture have shifted as the use of 3D printed building materials becomes more commonplace. Furniture and homeware retail giant, IKEA, has started using 3D printing in the creation of their popular home furnishings. 3D printing has also been used in the creation of household tools, children’s toys, and automotive mechanics supplies (see these recently released airless puncture-proof tires)! Food scientists have created 3D printed meatless “meat.” The possibilities are nearly endless, truly limited only by human imagination and creativity.
In considering the potentially far-reaching and profound economic and social changes that 3D printing technology will likely continue to have, it becomes clear that today’s youth could benefit from not just an understanding of the importance of 3D printing technology but also from building familiarity with how to use it. Fluency in design thinking and in the use of 3D printing technology will allow children to lead the next wave of innovation.
The thriving online 3D printing community, Thingiverse, is sure to fuel young innovators’ curiosity as they peruse a growing, interactive catalog of “things” that can all be made through 3D printing. Throughout the weeks of July 1st, July 22nd, and August 12, Innovators Camp will feature workshops on 3D printing. If your innovator can’t wait for camp to start experimenting with three-dimensionality, consider checking out the 3Doodler pen, which allows children to create three-dimensional sculptures by hand.