The race is on to get 3D printers into schools

Ultimaker’s open source and MakerBot’s closed source 3D printers are making their way into schools.

Ultimaker’s CREATE initiative in UK schools

Ultimaker GB is launching 3D printing school initiative CREATE at the Education Innovation Conference in February 2014 with the aim to get a 3D printer in every UK school.

3D printers

Considering that there are approximately 24,000 schools only in England, it might take some time to achieve such an ambitious aim; or maybe not, now that the UK government’s new curriculum proposals for September 2014 prioritise coding and 3D printing skills in schools. Last October, the Department for Education put aside £500,000 to get 3D printers in up to 60 schools including training for teachers.

UK universities have already helped establish their country as the leading European state in terms of research within additive manufacturing (the academic term for 3D printing). Maybe now the time has come for the six year olds and teenagers to dive into the world of 3D printing.

The 3D Print Show slogan encapsulates the hype around this new technology perfectly: “The Internet changed the world in the 90s. The world is about to change again.”

MakerBot Academy in US schools

Only a couple of months ago, MakerBot announced their even more ambitious aim to get a 3D printer in every school in the US, inspired by Obama’s call to bring manufacturing back to America. In his State of the Union Address, he explicitly added that his administration “must ensure the next industrial revolution in manufacturing will happen in America”.

Getting 3D printers into 138,000 schools is no small undertaking. To help fund this, MakerBot are crowdfunding the initiative via Donors Choose where more than 650 schools have already registered in the hope to get a 3D printer.

MakerBot’s first 3D printer was an open source machine so that people could easily change and adapt the printers. It was mainly geeks playing around with the technology at the time. But in 2012 the company came out with their second printer Replicator 2 and controversially decided to close source it to stop people from copying it. They even lost one of their co-founders because of it.

Open source vs closed source 3D printing technology

Will this new 3D printing revolution or evolution be led by the knowledgeable Open Source community consisting of tens of thousands of geeks and innovators or by the powerful and almighty corporate Closed Source community of early adopters?

Open source technology enables a collaborative approach between users and offers students the opportunity to engage in the learning and development of this exciting and disruptive technology. That’s a major benefit in addition to the fact that if the machine breaks, it’s easier and probably quicker to fix it yourself as you don’t have to rely on customer services on the phone who may try to convince you that it’s all your fault or ask you to send in the machine for a few weeks to repair.

However, not everyone is a cool geek and can fix a 3D printer, but what most of the desktop machines have in common is that they are fairly user-friendly. You don’t need to be a talented tech wizard to print yourself a selection of stunning bracelets, which is what I have done here with an Ultimaker printer using colourful bio-plastic (PLA) from Faberdashery. The design was a free downloadable file provided by Nervous System on Thingiverse:

3d printed bracelets
3d printed bracelets

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