EducationTechnology

If you are anything like me, you’d like to spend more time with your kids, but find it hard to connect with them in a way that means something to the both of you. Mine is a homeschooling family, and there are many hours to fill each day. A friend of mine has been pointing out the reasons to invest in a 3d printer for our family. I’ve been cautious about the whole subject… it is quite a bit of money to begin with (for us… we are on a tight budget). So I took some time to look at the benefits of saving up and getting a 3d printer, and I’d like to share them with you.

1. It’s economical.

This is the first consideration for our family and probably for most others as well. It’s normal, and it’s a fair question. The good news is that a 3d printer can save you thousands of dollars over the years. A kilogram of plastic costs thirty loonies, and most items (I’m told) are only 10 grams of plastic. Consider that for a moment… for $30, I could print 300 items that I would otherwise buy in a store. Recently, my friend printed cookie cutter party favors for his son’s birthday party… I would spend at least $10 in a store for this project. That’s only one consideration. I’d love to immerse my children in concepts such as art and architecture, even with them being seven years and younger. Instead of just reading about it, we could print out an exact replica model with the right plans, which anyone can find for free online (I checked). So many great 3d printing model instructions are online. With our homeschooling lifestyle, I’m sure a 3d printer would more than pay us back within the first year. For families who don’t homeschool, I can see the same being true, especially if it’s used for more than just educational purposes. This brings me to my next point…

2. It’s practical.

Did you know that the only true difference between AA batteries and C batteries is their size? This is certainly news to me! Yet, it was easy to find this info online when looking for easy 3d printing projects. You can print adapters to use AAs in C battery electronics. Need a quick cell phone holder and amplifier? Just download the plans and go. Do you desire a carabiner for your key chain? Bottle openers? Coasters? Yes. These are all easily accessed and free for use online. 3d printing is revolutionizing the way we consume goods in this new millennium, by making us producers as well. And when you get bored with those projects, you can build robots, candy sorting machines, alarm clocks, simple watches, and even droids like those seen in Star Wars films (it may be expert level, but it can, and has, been done).

3. It’s tangible.

Most of us learn more easily through the senses. By using a 3d printer, you are connecting one more sense to your children’s impression of the world and what they are studying. Architecture, airplanes, and the human skeletal structure can all be made more real to your child through this revolutionary technology… the possibilities are limitless. Is your child interested in chemistry? Print out some molecules. Do fossils fascinate your child? Make some trilobites and dinosaur bones. Australia, mate? You could easily teach a lesson in aerodynamics, featuring different boomerang designs.

4. It can help save the planet.

At first, I wondered how this could be true. I mean, it’s plastic and other materials, so how is this helping to save the planet? It helps because all those plastic goods that used to be bought in stores can be printed at home… saving the fuel spent on freight, whether It’s by ship, airline, truck, or railway. Also, you wouldn’t be packaging these goods after you print them at your house… you wouldn’t be testing and using different types of ink, scraping what didn’t test well with consumer panels, etc. You would have a specific idea in mind, find the plans for it, and just print it. That’s cutting out a load of energy waste. Much of the plastic material for printing is recycled, and there are possibilities for recycling your projects when you are done with them.

5. We’ve only just begun.

I recently learned that wood, ceramic, and even glass can be 3d printed. You may have to have some different kinds of extruders and work at different temperatures, but the idea that these materials can now easily be 3d printed blows my mind. Can you imagine how far 3d printing can take us within the next 10 years? Will we be able to print circuitry? I’d be interested in being able to print all the parts of a phone or camera at home. With imagination and such an adaptable medium, there seems to be no end to what we could invent, assemble, or artistically create.

I’m sure there are other reasons to own a 3d printer as well. Especially after the research for this article, I don’t know if I can imagine *not* buying one when we can afford it. I’d be thinking of all the fun we’d be missing.

by Sarah Bennage