Using 3D printers though students at Centennial High School in Franklin, Tennessee can use 3d prototyping services techniques to make highly accurate models and even finished working items from designs made through 3D CAD software.
With classes including engineering, architecture and design at high school in the past what students ended up with were plans and perhaps a shoddy foam model. If you designed a tool you had little chance of making a working model, if you designed a building you could make a 3D CAD design on a computer screen or perhaps a inaccurate scale model but you would never be able to get a true idea of how that building would look.
You might think that the learning curve on such a cutting edge piece of equipment would be a little too steep for high school students to use, 3D prototyping services is after all a business where rapid prototype makers using traditional techniques are highly paid and highly skilled. This may soon change though as 3D printers especially the ZPrinters made by Z Corporation are incredibly easy to use.
The ZPrinter 450 is the model chosen for Franklin’s Centennial High School and students have taken to it like ducks to water, with a little help from their teacher Tim Sawyer. The Z Printer is also importantly very safe to use, with traditional techniques used for 3d prototyping services the chemicals and glues used are often toxic and dangerous, some less toxic but still unpleasant smelling materials are still used in classrooms. In contrast the ZPrinter uses a non toxic powder that is then hardened, using a binder, a few microns at a time following a 3D CAD design.
Once a student makes their 3D design on a computer all they have to do is click print. Once the print is finished it is a quick job to blow away excess powder within the ZPrinter that can then be reused meaning that materials aren’t wasted: making a ZPrinter affordable for most schools.
The ZPrinter 450’s size as well is much smaller than many 3D printers, it is about 5 feet tall by around 7 foot wide: small enough to fit into the average classroom. The size limits the size of what can be printed of course but multiple parts can be made and then fitted together. For smaller items though it is actually possible to print a design with many parts that are printed with everything in place and ready to go.
The ZPrinter has been a great hit with students at the Centennial High School so far and it is expected that next year’s design and engineering classes may be oversubscribed as the ability to manufacture attracts students to classes that go beyond technical drawing. In one of the first classes with the Z Printer a Halloween pumpkin model was printed and in full color, orange of course.
Nearby Summit High School also now has a ZPrinter and it is expected that increasingly schools nationwide will acquire ZPrinters as an ideal teaching tool to develop the designers, architects and engineers of tomorrow.