While I was at the VITTA conference about 2 weeks ago I came across a sales booth selling 3D printers for schools. I mentioned that I was very much into Minecraft, and more specifically MinecraftEdu for use in schools. I was asked "do you do much designing in Minecraft with students?" My initial answer was not really, but the more I think about it the more I think any time I get the students to build something in Minecraft they are designing.
This has led to a 'case study' in Minecraft as a design tool, I still don't have my hands on a 3D printer but I am working towards it. To help me to convince the powers at my school that this is a worthwhile spend I spent about 4 hours last night designing a couple of models in Minecraft to be printed. I am going to send them to the company, they will print them for me. I am also going to start a design competition at school for students, and the best design(s) will also be printed.
Here is a picture of what I designed last night.
On the left is a bacteriophage and on the right is a DNA helix. The box that these are in is 120X120X120 Minecraft blocks. The printer being used to print can print a 12X12X12cm 'block' which means that each Minecraft block is about 1mm in real life.
I still have quite a bit of 'print area' left and am trying to think of other things I can design in the print area to show other faculty heads in my school to try and get them on board and split the cost amongst more of us.
3D printers are also called RepRaps, google them for more info. You can buy kits and build your own if you have the money and time. However the one I am looking at is called and Up Mini http://store.3dprintingsystems.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=62&product_id=101 which will work after about 15mins out of the box.
If you have a 3D printer, or have built one I would really like to hear from you about them and any suggestions you might have. If you are in a school that has access to a 3D printer I would like to hear how it is being used in different learning areas. If you are someone who knows of any grants or funding I could call upon to get some of these in my school I would REALLY like to hear from you. If you have any other comments please leave them in the comments section below.