Get creative with 3D printing workshop for kids and adults
Looking for something for the kids to do? Look no further than the Famly website which offers lots of kids' activities. One of the activities on offer is 3D printing. Book now and take advantage of a special offer: January workshops in Sydney and Wollongong are $260 off - pay only $140 (usually priced $400)!
Heading off for a full day workshop with my son to learn about 3D printing, I asked my seven year old what he thought 3D printing was about, he replied "something about computers".
Similar responses resounded from parents and kids at the workshop as they wanted to be "exposed to the technology earlier; had seen it on TV; wanted to see in work in real life; didn't know much about it; and wanted to create real-life objects".
The workshop was run by Me3D, an Australian provider of 3D printers and education. Me3D have also been working to install 3D printers into primary and high schools across the country as part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. This workshop was the perfect way to get a rundown of what's in store for the kids, as well as hang out during school holidays. Our presenters for the day were Leanne, (Me3D cofounder) and Jason (Me3D National Sales Manager) with Alex (Me3D investor) assisting.
Today's group consisted of 6 adults and 9 children, with each parent and child having a dedicated 3D printer set up on their table. Having brought along our laptops, we logged onto the wifi connection and both kids and parents alike were raring to go.
We ran through the Occupation Health and Safety (OH&S) of our surroundings and possible hazards of working with a 3D printer, which included tying back one's hair as there are moving parts, not sticking one's fingers into the printer and not touching the rollers and hot nozzle when in action.
Leanne began with a talk about 3D printer technology, how it has evolved, where it's used and how it solves real-world problems. There were printed examples on show and then we jumped into Thingiverse, an open source 3D printables search engine.
My son took the reins and chose the most detailed dragon figurine to be printed. A good tip is to select a model that has been printed with pictures showing the finished product rather than selecting a model of possible 3D objects as they may not have been tested.
Typing in the 3D printer IP address, our laptops connected to the 3D printer via Buildflow software, which streamlines the printing process with pre-sets, or there is the option of custom setting your own preferences for the print job.
The 3D printer uses the material PLA, also known as Polylactic Acid. It's great to note that this product is made from renewable resources, such as corn starch, biodegradable, non-toxic and has a pleasant smell when used for printing.
There is a wait whilst the computer software translates the object, known as 'slicing' into layers to enable the 3D printer to print it. It begins by printing the flattest surface it can find, moving forwards, backwards, sideways (and this is where my memory of maths came flooding back), in a z direction building the object up.
One by one the 3D printers came to life and the kids and adults were transfixed by the nozzle moving back and forth, creating layer upon layer. The excitement continued to build of being able to have a tangible 3D object in our hands at the end of it. Trust my kid to be the only one to pick the most detailed object, so it took a while for software to translate the drawing to the printer and 3 hours to make. But the expression on his face at the end of it was priceless!
During our wait, we got on the tools such as Tinkercad and started using some basic design programs and methods to develop your very own unique object. We also made cookie cutters based on our own freehand drawings or selecting from a gallery.
There's also the opportunity to purchase your own 3D printer and materials of different grades and colours.
It's amazing to see how far 3D printing has come and the possibilities that are only the push of a button away. The future outlook may well mean that we'll be able to design and print replacement parts, puzzle parts, game tokens, doorknobs ourselves with 3D modelling programs like CAD, apps and 3D scanners. Or opt to use the plethora of ideas on the 3D search engines then just print them out, either at home or in localised print shops.
But I'm imagining a growing collection of Pokémon and Skylanders bits and bobs which is the current rage in my household, so I'll pause.
The next lot of workshops are held in various venues. Hop to it and see what the hype is about.