Make:able Challenge: Design & 3D Print Assistive Technology for the Disabled

Service bureau PrintLab is partnering with Autodesk for an exciting new competition for schools. The make:able challenge represents what should be a remarkable technological journey for students and teachers as they are invited to use either Tinkercad or Fusion 360 software  (both options are products of Autodesk) and 3D printing to make free, assistive technology with the following directions:

“Design and make a product or prototype that improves the day-to-day life of someone who struggles with mobility in their hands.”

This comprehensive challenge—and learning experience for students—is centered around an online toolkit provided for students, including a teacher’s guide and accompanying lesson plans. Students are expected to team up into smaller groups and use the toolkit as a foundation for increasing their design skills, especially in 3D—with the use of Autodesk products. More importantly, though, the competition is designed to help them find meaning in their communities, whether locally or online, as well as learning about how individuals must cope with disabilities and can use assistive technology for a better quality of life.

Make:able toolkits also offer inspiration through the following:

  • Stories and example solutions
  • Worksheets and a variety of activities designed to encourage a human-centered approach and teach empathy
  • Methods for encouraging design-based thinking for creating concepts and opportunities
  • Directing students to tell their story through their work
  • Designing, 3D printing, testing, and making changes to products

“Having supported hundreds of schools with 3D printing curriculum, we have witnessed firsthand some amazing student talent across the globe,” said Jason Yeung, Co-Founder of PrintLab. “It is our belief that this talent should expand outside of the classroom and be put to use on real-world challenges that have a positive impact on society.”

The key behind PrintLab and Autodesk partnering was to create an integrative program for schools to help encourage students in design and 3D printing, highlighting their work in both digital and AM processes.

“By participating in the make:able challenge, students will experience The Future of Making to help design and make a better world,” said Steven Parkinson, Education Manager at Autodesk.

Students ages 18 and under are eligible to participate in the make:able challenge, to be included in the following types of educational courses:

  • Design and technology classes
  • Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) lessons
  • After-school programs
  • Workshops
  • Distance and remote learning opportunities

Teachers who register for the make:able program will receive challenge toolkits on September 1st. The teacher’s pack includes development resources and guided lesson plans. Entries are to be judged by a panel of experts in April 2021, with prizes including 3D printers for winning teams.

Challenges like make:able stress both the importance of using innovation and 3D printing to do good in the world, as well as the importance of STEM education for the younger generations. Many projects are designed to interest more girls in 3D printing—a powerful tool for STEM—as well as creating workshops and specific STEM apps for kids.  Find out more here.

[Source / Images: PrintLab]

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Success in Education: Michigan Technological University Offers Comprehensive 3D Printing Technology Workshop to Teachers

Chelsea Schelly, Gerald Anzalone, Bas Wijnen, and Joshua M. Pearce, researchers from several different departments at Michigan Technological University, explore one of the most exciting aspects of digital fabrication in the world today, releasing findings from their study in relation to STEM education in the recently published ‘Open-Source 3D Printing Technologies for Education: Bringing Additive Manufacturing to the Classroom.’

Pointing toward the importance of STEM education (focused on science, technology, engineering, and math—also sometimes referred to as STEAM, with the oft-overlooked inclusion of art), the authors discuss the importance of 3D printing, along with the potential for interaction across curriculums—especially possible due to the communication and latitude offered through open-source technology and innovation.

While individuals are struggling to find jobs around the world, there has been an obvious source of frustration emanating from the STEM sector in terms of industry where employers are challenged to find suitably educated workers. Today, numerous international companies are offering special training programs, workshops for teachers and students, and there is continued emphasis on the need to encourage girls to pursue STEM education and jobs.

“Despite a protracted period of high unemployment, about 4 million jobs go unfilled in the U.S. due to inadequate numbers of college graduates in STEM-related disciplines,” state the authors.

While accessibility and affordability are touted as some of the greatest benefits to 3D printing, this is not always a reality for many educational settings. There may be budgetary concerns as administrative costs continue to rise on every level in education, funds are limited, and staff may not be sufficiently trained to step right in and lead 3D design or 3D printing endeavors.

Open-source technology is an enormous boon to eliminating budgetary obstacles in education, and especially with the use of RepRap-style 3D printers. The authors see ‘clear opportunity’ via STEM education with open source 3D printers (OS3DP), due to the ability for self-replication, ease in use with 3D printing, and accessibility to standard materials like PLA.

“These OS3DPs have already been shown to provide scientific labs substantial economic savings by customizing both simple and advanced scientific equipment,” state the authors. “For example, to outfit a high school teaching laboratory with 30 optics setups costs less than $500 using the OS optics approach, compared to $15,000 for commercial versions.”

“Furthermore, OS3DP technologies can contribute to a transformative educational experience among teachers and students alike. Educators can themselves become students during a workshop intended to teach them something new.”

This was evidenced in the workshop offered for this study, as the researchers observed teachers ‘experiencing a transformation of understandings.’ For this research, 22 middle school and high school teachers were recruited for participating, emerging from a combination of disciplines related to STEAM. During the workshop, they were involved in building, using, and even troubleshooting OS3DPs for MOST RepRap 3D printers.

The printers resulted in an expense of around $550 each, but approximately half of the parts could be 3D printed. The workshop was meant to be self-directed for the educators, accentuated with both online instruction and visual tools. Facilitators were designated for additional help as teachers learned how to build fairly complex 3D printers. In terms of research, the authors were able to study perceptions of the teachers during the process, along with understanding more about how they perceived the opportunity to use OS3DP technology in school.

Open-source 3D Printer Workshop Schedule

The workshop lasted three-and-a-half days at the Michigan Technological University campus, hosted by the Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology Laboratory (MOST), and funded by both Square One Educational Network and GM. A trained social scientist was on-site to observe, lead focus groups, analyze the material in workshop applications, and assess survey results at the end.

Assembly Kit: The assembly kit was given to each teacher team on the day prior to the workshop

“This research was intended to improve the workshop design for future workshops, explore the potential for developing a scalable online workshop, and examine the meanings teachers associated with OS3DP technology as well as how they understand their potential for the educational setting,” explained the authors.

Build instructions were divided into two streams, with all members ‘continuously engaged’ in the build process for the 3D printers on hand in the workshop.

Tandem MOST Prusa Mendel RepRap Build task list.

The project consisted of the following instructions:

  • High-quality digital photographs of completed sections
  • Animations demonstrating 3D view of parts
  • Images demonstrating each stage of the build, with ‘clear documentation’
  • Short presentations and demonstrations

The MOST RepRap Printer, which is color coded for easy assembly both in the physical parts but also in the animated graphics and on the wiki. Key: Silver: Frame (vertexes, rod clamps, wire holders, Melzi board mounts); Black: X-axis (motor and idler ends, x-carriage, belt terminators, end stop holder, 12 tooth T5 pulley); White: Y-axis (motor mount, belt terminators, y-carriage corners and bearing saddles, 12 tooth T5 pulley); Yellow: Z-axis (motor mounts, guide rod clamp, z-motor couplings, bar clamps, end stop holder); Red: Extruder (extruder drive body, idler, gears, extruder drive spacer with Bowden nut trap, extruder drive mount).

“As users can immediately see the results of their geometric designs, OpenSCAD is a good way to teach students geometry and coding,” explained the authors. “Despite the relative ease of use OpenSCAD is a powerful solid modeling program and was used to design all of the components in the 3D printers that were printed. Finally, OpenSCAD allows for parametric designs, which is the ability to alter a design to specifications by changing the parameters of the geometry of an object (e.g. shapes are written with variables that others can change).”

“This allows changes to be made to the design easily and quickly by simply changing the value of user-defined variables—so once one person designs it, everyone can quickly customize the design for themselves.”

Assembly, Day One: A teacher assembling the printer frame on day one of the workshop.

Each team successfully completed the building of their printers and teachers were 3D printing parts by the end of the workshop.

Group photograph of workshop participants (teachers and workshop facilitators) and their 3D printers after a successful RepRap build.

“Not only were the teachers successful in building their printers, and printing with them; they also experienced the empowering and transformative learning that they described as possible among students with the help of OS3DP,” stated the researchers. “Teachers were active participants in the creation of both knowledge and objects, communicating with and learning from each other, throughout the workshop.”

Teachers rated the workshop in a survey, with 85 percent reporting that they found the instruction method to be either extremely or very effective. All participants agreed that speakers during the workshop were effective, and comments regarding the technology were positive.

The data conclusively showed that the teachers participating did experience transformative learning regarding OS3DP, gaining an understanding of the value for their students, along with the opportunity for influencing students who may not be as involved in class, and challenging gifted students who may be typically bored. The researchers described feedback as ‘overwhelmingly positive,’ with comments from the survey making it clear that such education offers ‘powerful potential,’ and especially with the use of active learning.

“Teachers described how their understandings of these newly emerging technologies evolved via workshop participation, as they learned about their environmental, economic, and social impacts. They also described the sense of empowerment resulting from the experience of making something, in turning a pile of parts into an operable printer and then an abstract design into an actual object,” concluded the authors. “The teachers discussed this transformative potential as an important consequence of getting OS3DP in the classroom, as students themselves may be able to experience a transformation that allows them to see themselves as active creators, makers of objects and their own educational experiences.”

“We argue that OS3DP is transformative and empowering in an educational setting; we observed firsthand its effect of teachers, and believe it may bring transformative educational experiences into the traditional classroom by empowering students to be active creators rather than passive consumers of both knowledge and materials, transforming their perceptions of themselves and their abilities through active, participatory education.”

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at

Assembled Printer, Day Two: A teacher with their assembled printer at the end of day two of the workshop.

[Source / Images: ‘Open-Source 3-D Printing Technologies for Education: Bringing Additive Manufacturing to the Classroom’]

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The Shield of Achilles: Greek Students Enjoy Learning Program Integrating 3D Printing Studies & Classical Studies

Angelopoulos and E. Solomou have authored ‘The Shield of Achilles using 3D Technologies to Support Teaching Scenarios of Homeric Epics,’ describing a recent interdisciplinary school program centered around the Homer’s Iliad, and an Informatics class. This new method of teaching occurred at the 1st Junior High School of Vrilissia, Athens (2017-2018 school year) as students aged 13-14 of the B grade created a 3D design project called ‘Shield of Achilles.’

It is a pretty well-known fact within educational circles that the need to involve more children in STEM learning is great. Classical subjects need more attention these days too, along with new and innovative teaching methods for teachers. Both types of studies complement each other perfectly:

“Students interested in classical subjects do not use scientific thinking, computational thinking, practice and methodologies based on the understanding of STEM subjects,” said the authors. “Also, students with interest in STEM subjects are less interested in classical studies which lessens their chances of developing comprehensive knowledge and literacy on issues such as history, philosophy, languages, religions, etc.”

The new learning program looks toward the year 2030 as teachers combine STEM, social science, humanities, arts, and classical disciplines; and while students who follow STEM-related careers usually end up with myriad options later, such classes are historically lacking in female students as well as the overall popularity desired by educators and prospective employers who would like to see the pool of prospective young graduates expanding for ongoing needs in the workforce.

“Connecting STEM and Classical subjects (Informatics and Ancient Greek in our case) is vital in ensuring that the general knowledge sector will benefit of much needed new talent in its various fields, and that students think and act not only like scientists-experts in their field, but also as integrated personalities, weighing evidence to draw conclusions, and learning how to navigate the claims bombarding us in our everyday lives,” stated the authors.

Model of the Shield of Achilles made by students in Layer view

The “Shield of Achilles” program is meant to offer the following:

  • Create a ‘community of practice’ between the STEM and classical learning disciplines
  • Implement integrated models
  • Monitor acquisition of skills, student participation and performance, and enthusiasm level of students

For the Informatics class, the students were able to work on an Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer that had been donated to the school two years previously. Students also learned how to use both Tinkercad and Cura as they fabricated their own Achilles’ shield, encouraged to ‘freely express themselves and produce their own creation’ in 3D.

Upon completing a questionnaire at the end, students and teachers expressing having fun, although students would have liked ‘subjects to be taught in an interdisciplinary way together with IT and the support of 3D printing and designing technologies.’ They did, however, enjoy the cross-teaching approach integrating 3D design and printing. Students also expressed having a ‘positive view’ about Ancient Greek.

“Since the implementation of the program, it has been shown that students’ interest in both IT subject and the cognitive subject of Ancient Greek, was highly increased. In particular, enhancing interest was much greater for weak students in both Homer’s Iliad and IT,” concluded the authors.

“The use of three-dimensional technologies can make cognitive subjects more attractive to students, enhance the quality of teaching subjects, increase students’ interest in them and acquire skills [13] such as: problem solving, digital skills, teamwork, communication with my classmates, learn how to learn on my own, etc., skills that are necessary to improve the personality and education of the students.”

3D printing within educational systems around the world is playing a large role in how students shape their perception of STEM learning, and consequent careers in related fields. Teachers and students are often able to learn together regarding new technology, and classrooms are producing everything from prosthetics for animals to robotics, and far more.

[Source / Images: ‘The Shield of Achilles using 3D Technologies to Support Teaching Scenarios of Homeric Epics’]


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MakerBot SKETCH Classroom Helps Educators Integrate 3D Printing into Schools

After introducing its Method X manufacturing workstation in August, MakerBot is now launching another new system, which is part of what promises to be a very reliable classroom 3D printing setup. The new MakerBotSKETCH Classroom, which incorporates the company’s entire education ecosystem, will help students and educators access the resources and tools for 3D printing classroom success.

“With SKETCH, we are changing the way 3D printing is used in schools and advancing the possibilities of learning to boost student innovation,” said MakerBot CEO Nadav Goshen. “We believe that SKETCH Classroom is the best 3D printing setup for the classroom, with an ideal student-to-printer ratio, making 3D printing more accessible to students, and setting educators up for 3D printing success.”

Four years ago, the company announced a shift in focus from consumer to professional and educational 3D printing, and has been making good on this change with its MakerBot Educators and 3D printing certification program for teachers. MakerBot 3D printers are in over 7,000 schools across North America, and its comprehensive AM education ecosystem gives multitudes of educators the necessary tools and resources to adopt 3D printing curricula in their classrooms and teach their students skills that will be extremely useful in technology-heavy fields.

But in order to teach their students how to use a 3D printer, educators themselves need to learn, as well as successfully integrate the technology into lesson plans and properly manage classroom resources. The SKETCH Classroom is a comprehensive solution that includes what MakerBot calls “interactive certification courses,” which teach educators how to create and deploy curriculum, teach students critical thinking, design thinking, and problem solving with 3D printing, and, most importantly, how to use the MakerBot SKETCH 3D printer. The setup also teaches students how to use the printer.

SKETCH Classroom’s workflow solution offers a great, very accessible classroom setup, taking into account the often difficult, yet very important 3D printer-to-student ratio. Additionally, the SKETCH firmware and printer management software are both connected to the MakerBot Cloud platform and provide a range of 3D printing applications, such as management, print design, and preparation. Students can submit designs to the Cloud through their MakerBot account, and teachers are able to easily manage, queue, and monitor 3D print jobs. Because the platform is so easy to set up and use, teachers can spend more time focused on what’s really important – integrating 3D printing into their curricula.

The SKETCH 3D printer is UL-Certified, and spent over 46,000 hours being tested by MakerBot for print quality testing and system reliability. It has a build volume of 150 x 150 x 150 mm, a heated build plate, touchscreen controls and on-board camera, and also comes with an enclosed chamber and built-in particulate filter for safe classroom 3D printing. The printer is compatible with MakerBot’s PLA and Tough Materials.

Full integrations with MakerBot Cloud, as well as other features, will be coming at a later date.

However, while this all sounds well and good, there are some who aren’t quite enamored with the SKETCH. Joel Telling, the 3D Printing Nerd, seems less than impressed by this new setup, stating on Twitter that the new 3D printer looks rather…familiar.


If you look at some of the comments and other posts, other issues people had ranged from the price of the SKETCH and the small number of materials it’s compatible with to how cloud-based printers aren’t great for limited WiFi environments, i.e. schools. So, some in the community are taking MakerBot’s announcement with a grain of salt. At this point, it is unclear if the 3D printing community is just very skeptical about everything that Makerbot does because of past transgressions and we should give them more of a chance or if the skepticism is focussed on the product offering itself.

SKETCH Classroom comes with the following:

  • Two SKETCH 3D printers, each with 1 extra build plate, 1 snips, and 1 spatula
  • Ten student and two teacher licenses for ISTE-Certified MakerBot Certification programs
  • The MakerBot Cloud platform, which is integrated with top CAD design software like Autodesk Fusion 360, Onshape, and TinkerCad
  • Thingiverse Education, which offers access to more than 600 teacher-created 3D printing lesson plans for all subjects and grade levels
  • Support from MakerBot’s team of 3D printing experts

MakerBot’s SKETCH Classroom is on display for the first time at this week’s TCEA Convention & Exposition in Austin, Texas; visit the company at booth #2514 to learn more. The platform should begin shipping in North America on February 17, 2020, and will soon be available in other regions as well.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at or share your thoughts below.

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The Future of 3D Printing In Education

3D Printing is a multi-beneficial technology that serves a wider range of industries every day. Learning about it at an early age provides students with crucial skills with a technology that has the potential to serve them in any subject or industry they wish to pursue. It also energizes the learning process, allowing for students and teachers alike to interact more directly with what they are learning. 

Developing Knowledge of New Technologies

3D Printing is a technology that continues to grow and is used not only for prototyping and manufacturing but to facilitate innovation in a multitude of different fields. Developing the skills to use it not only open the door to future jobs but also allows for new levels of thinking and potential as the limits of what is possible to create are pushed.

Refining Creativity, Design and Problem Solving Skills

It also calls for students to develop key skills in design, allowing them to advance their creativity and engage their imagination. By observing an object that they have designed and 3D printed, they are able to make tests, refine their work and learn by trial and error, enabling students to participate more fully in their own learning and develop problem solving skills. It also gives them the tools and confidence to pursue new ideas.

Enabling Visual Learning

Teachers can use 3D printing to create tangible aids and illustrate complex concepts or objects that allow for students to engage more directly with whatever they are learning about and this extends to virtually any subject in school. History students can observe a specific 3D printed artifacts. Geography students can explore 3D printed maps. In Biology, a 3D printed model of a heart gives students a chance to investigate from all angles and gather and retain information they might not from a 2 dimensional image.

How 3D Printing Technology Can Successfully Be Introduced in Schools

In the last few years the cost and size of machines has dropped making them more accessible to schools. The biggest challenge is equipping teachers with the skills needed to apply this technology in the classroom. More and more guides, tutorials and project ideas for educators are being put in place online and accompanying specific machines. If 3D printing is to successfully integrate classrooms it is crucial that teachers are given the tools they need to understand it themselves. 

Because the 3D printing world is aware of its growing importance in the classroom, many machines are being built to suit younger users. What’s important is selecting the right machines to best fit a school’s curriculum.

When introducing printers is not possible, tools like 3D printing pens allow students to develop a basic understanding of 3D by creating their own sculptures. 3D printing services like Shapeways can also be utilized to give students access to high-end technology without the cost associated with buying a printer.

Despite the challenges of integrating a new technology into schools it is no question that 3D printing is becoming an undeniable asset in education. It not only invigorates the learning process but provides students with invaluable skills and opportunities to expand the realms of possibility for developing minds.

Want to utilize 3D printing for your educational project? Shapeways will help you bring industrial grade printing to your next big project.

The post The Future of 3D Printing In Education appeared first on Shapeways Magazine.

3D Printing Strikes A Chord in Preschooler Music Education

In ‘Digital Fabrication: 3D Printing in Preschool Education,’ Federico Avanzini, Adriano Baratè, and Luca A. Ludovico explore the connection between 3D printing and the classroom through preschool music lessons. While music lessons act as the vehicle to show the level of educational value, the researchers use it to present a rich example, beginning by pointing out how important music education is to preschoolers—and featured in numerous research studies previously.

There are links found between better spatial-temporal reasoning, along with early reading skills. Other recent studies have shown that preschool children have ‘implicit harmonic knowledge’ with broad potential. The authors examine cognition, and especially as it is derived from the sensorimotor function—with preschoolers offering ‘paradigmatic examples.’ Smaller children learn through ‘perception-action in the environment,’ along with enjoying information arrived at from other senses too.

“It is often difficult to distinguish between exploration and play: during the sensory-motor development, very young children need to explore first to be able then to proceed to playful behavior, which is one of the most important activities for their development; by playing, children start to explore the world and to acquire and master new skills which can be vital for them,” explain the authors, along with reminding us of the importance of ‘open-ended’ nature in interactions, as kids are able to create new ways to play with an object—delighting in their discoveries.

While 3D printing has much to offer, preschoolers tend to lack the required modeling skills for creating parts and prototypes. Today, there are numerous different software programs developed precisely for preschoolers, allowing them to design and fabricate small items. In designing a 3D printing education, however, the authors realized some complications due to accessibility and affordability, along with space for hardware to be kept. They were also concerned that lack of suitable materials could be an obstacle too.

A raw 3D model of a mouthpiece

“Nevertheless, 3D printing offers relevant opportunities of young music learners, allowing them to build low-cost and customizable didactic objects,” state the researchers.

Providing a library of models is helpful to preschoolers—along with some designs they can begin customizing. Simple models can also be a great way for parents and new tutors or teachers to learn about 3D design and 3D printing. Examples might include everything from sounding objects to actual instruments. There may be percussion toy instruments, miniature xylophones, marimbas, and more.

3D models of musical instruments obtained by the extrusion of 2D shapes

“Even if a scaled model of a complex musical instrument can be hard to find, simplified 3D shapes can be easily obtained by extruding 2D contours without affecting the efficacy of the didactic experience,” stated the researchers. “Besides, 3D-printed objects can foster an early learning of organology, i.e. the science of musical instruments and their classification, including technical aspects of how instruments produce sound.”

The corresponding printed objects

Kids may also be drawn to more alternative educational fun like 3D printing action figures playing their instruments together. Such models could be challenging to find, but they encourage children to enjoy role models playing music, and especially in 3D printed or figurine form. Scale models and figures can be easily re-sized in 3D printing, and different materials can also change the way an item looks significantly.

They also included a case study regarding common western notation (CWN), a method for encoding notated music, as well as the concept of the piano-roll model where details like pitch and timbre are linked to 2D geometric shapes and more. 3D printed solid blocks can be created and placed on a baseplate. Ready-made blocks should help children link shapes to music parameters.

The role of the teacher/tutor is key as they assist in 3D design and 3D printing, guiding the young users, and challenging them to learn.

“Examples of didactic activities may include the recognition of musical instruments and their subparts, the exploration of sound generation techniques, the design and fabrication of sounding objects, and the investigation of alternative forms of music notation,” said the authors.

“For future work, we are planning to further investigate these proposals and implement them as learning practices to be experimented and assessed in preschool and out-of-classroom contexts.”

The momentum 3D printing has in education today is fascinating—not only due to the enthusiasm obviously experienced within the classroom, from innovations being created like prosthetics to online learning for 3D metal printing, to vocational schools engaged in SLS printing.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at

[Source / Images: ‘Digital Fabrication: 3D Printing in Preschool Education’]

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How Building Robots Lets Students’ Imaginations Run Wild

Since we first launched, Shapeways has been passionate about supporting innovation in the robotics industry, developing accessible tools and high-quality, flexible materials that expand what’s possible. With Shapeways, building robots is easy – even non-experts can design and create their own parts and systems, turning their ideas into reality. To help showcase how 3D printing is transforming the robotics industry, we spoke with Shape Robotics about the ways they are using Shapeways to expand their business.

The Story Behind Shape Robotics

It all began in 2011, at the Technical University of Denmark – just outside of Copenhagen. Moises Pacheco partnered with and began collaboration with David Johan Christensen, an Associate Professor and Robot Researcher. It became clear that Moises and David shared the same vision: to develop a robot system that was extremely easy-to-use – even for younger school pupils.

The two developers were inspired by previous projects with modular robots that could repair themselves, as well as a project they had in progress with LEGO®, which was to develop new, digital products. This became Moises’ Ph.D. project, and as the years passed, interest in using the robot system Fable grew ever greater. At the end of 2015, David, Moises and Helene Christensen, a project manager, set up the spin-out company Shape Robotics and Fable was ready for the market. Their mission remains today: to make Fable as widely available as possible to students globally. This has been made possible with funding from the Technical University of Denmark and the Danish Ministry of Education – and they are well on their way. The Fable robotics system has since appeared on the top Microsoft Education Apps list and has also launched successfully with partners in the United Kingdom, USA, Italy, France and Mexico with more being added to the global list at a rapid pace.

Students learning how to build robots. Image by Shape Robotics

How 3D Printing Evolved Our Business

Using 3D printing parts has significantly expanded the usability of our product. Among other things, it gives the students a greater opportunity to use their own imagination to build robots by using the 3D printed parts in their design. Shapeways was the first 3D printing supplier that we discovered. We use the platform for all stages of production, from early stage prototyping to end use products. Now we can easily test different designs, modifying each based on our customers’ feedback and then quickly releasing the update. With Shapeways, we see greater accuracy in the parts we order and we’re able to easily scale up production, ordering any amount we need, no matter how large. For our company, dimensional accuracy is very important; so are aesthetics. Strength is also important, as our products are often being handled by students as early as third grade, which means falling on the floor often.

We’ve tried a number of Shapeways materials, including steel, versatile plastic, and fine detail plastic. The versatile plastic is the best for us, as it is more suitable for the way our products are being used, due to its mechanical properties. The value of versatile plastic and its high quality mechanical properties make this material ideal for our robots. Fable has already come so far but this is only the beginning. We are looking forward to what the future holds for Fable and Education on an even larger, global scale.

Interested in 3D Printing Robots for Your Business?

Find out how Shapeways can help make that happen.



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Researcher and 3D Printing Enthusiast Authors Chapter in New Book on 3D Printing in Education

Dr. James Novak, a postdoctoral researcher, industrial designer, and self-professed 3D printing geek, started a blog called edditive back in 2014 as a way to document his 3D printing projects. He recently got in touch with to let us know about his latest project – he wrote a chapter in a newly released book about 3D printing, titled “Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives on 3D Printing in Education.”

“Obviously 3D printing is changing education in many ways, but it is also challenging for teachers and schools to understand and bring into the classroom,” Dr. Novak told us. “This book can help fill this gap in knowledge.”

The book, which is nearly 350 pages long, covers a wide variety of academic topics, including:

  • 3D printing
  • STEM Education
  • Professional Development
  • Millennial Learners
  • Conceptual Frameworks
  • CAD Software
  • Augmented Reality

The book is a collection of research which can be used to assist during discussions related to interdisciplinary fields and educational perspectives from all around the world, all the way from kindergarten up through institutions of higher learning, to, as the description reads, “inform the uses of 3D printing in education from diverse and broad perspectives.”

“Although 3D printing technologies are still a rarity in many classrooms and other educational settings, their far-reaching applications across a wide range of subjects make them a desirable instructional aid,” the book’s description reads. “Effective implementation of these technologies can engage learners through project-based learning and exploration of objects.”

The book was designed and written specifically for educators, instructional designers, practitioners, and researchers. Dr. Novak’s 22-page chapter is titled “Re-Educating the Educators: Collaborative 3D Printing Education,” and, as he told us, “covers research into how to upskill school teachers in 3D printing through collaboration with universities.”

“I have been running workshops for teachers for 5 years based at universities in Australia and in the chapter I detail the contents of a one day workshop for school teachers, broken up into 3 sessions, and all involving hands-on activities,” Dr. Novak explained to “This could be adopted by any other trainers of teachers, and the book as a whole will interest a broad range of 3D printing researchers and practitioners, as well as curriculum planners and educators of all levels.

“The majority of 3D printing news articles focus on new technological achievements in the industry, and this could be a good opportunity to provide some new resources to the educators involved in training the next generation of designers, engineers etc.”

Dr. Novak’s book chapter uses images from some of his one-day workshops, which he also discusses in the book, and the goal behind the chapter is to call attention to some of the many real challenges that plague teachers who are attempting to adopt 3D printing in the classroom. The chapter starts with a summary of how Australian schools are adopting the technology, and moves on to new research and peer-reviewed literature about how short, intensive courses are helpful in offering teachers “meaningful training” in regards to 3D printing.

“Despite increasing pressure from Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) policies, there is little support offered to schools and teachers to learn 3D printing and associated skills such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and 3D scanning,” the chapter introduction reads. “Such technologies have traditionally been the domain of designers and engineers, trained through years of university and commercial practice, and may be daunting for many teachers, particularly those in disciplines where computing and technical expertise is minimal. It is unrealistic to expect teachers to add lengthy training courses in these technologies to their already busy workload, so novel methods of training, driven by bottom-up engagement, must be implemented to ensure teachers and students benefit from the opportunities presented by 3D printing.”

Other interesting chapters in the book include “3D Printing Glitches: Learning From Manufactured Errors,” “Girls and 3D Printing: Considering the Content, Context, and Child,” and “Creating Tactile Graphs for Students with Visual Impairments: 3D Printing as Assistive Technology.”

While this is all well and good, when I saw the price of this book I nearly had a heart attack – the list price for a hardback copy is $195, and while the price drops 20% to $156 when you purchase it through the IGI Global Online Bookstore, that’s still a pretty penny…and even more than it costs to purchase your own entry-level 3D printer! So you’ll need to decide if the knowledge in this book is worth breaking the bank for…or you could just purchase Dr. Novak’s chapter in PDF format for less than $40.

What do you think? Discuss this book and other 3D printing topics at or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.

[Images provided by Dr. James Novak]

10 Ways 3D Printing Played a Part in Education in 2018

3D printing is often used in education these days, whether it’s being taught as a subject or used to enhance another one. As we’re moving ever closer to the start of a new year, we decided to save you some time and gather the ten best education stories from 2018 in one article.

Siemens STEM DAY

The Siemens Foundation focuses on philanthropic efforts in order to continue the advancement of STEM-related education and workforce development, and has invested millions of dollars for this cause in the US. In early 2018, the Siemens Foundation worked with Discovery Education to re-brand its annual Siemens Science Day into a program for more modern educational opportunities: Siemens STEM Day, which is an opportunity for US schools to promote STEM activities for both students and teachers. The program, which doesn’t actually happen on one specific day but is a promotion of STEM lessons and hands-on activities, is meant to be used by students in grades K-12, and offers multiple tools and resources to help reboot STEM curriculum.

New 3D Printing Educational Initiatives

[Image: 3D PARS]

In February, we provided a round-up of some of the many educational initiatives that were looking to provide adults with a deeper understanding of 3D printing. Included in this round-up was a new online course for professionals by MIT, new 3D printing courses from the Sharebot Academy program, and a joint two-day training course in additive manufacturing from German consulting firm Ampower and full service prototyping and 3D printing provider H & H. Additional educational initiatives shared in the round-up were’s own Additive Manufacturing with Metals Course.

learnbylayers Partnered with Kodak

In 2017, educator Philip Cotton launched an online 3D printing resource for teachers called learnbylayers that offers lesson plans, project ideas, assessments and more that were designed by teachers for teachers. The site grew quickly, and in February Cotton announced that it had reached a distribution agreement with Kodak. The learnbylayers educational curriculum was added to the Kodak 3D Printing Ecosystem, as the company began offering the internationally-taught curriculum along with its Portrait 3D printer’s launch.

Renishaw Deepened Its Commitment to 3D Printing Education

This spring, Renishaw announced that it would be deepening its commitment to 3D printing education. The company established a new Fabrication Development Centre (FDC) at its Miskin facility in South Wales, with the goal of inspiring young people to pursue STEM careers. The FDC has two classrooms, staffed by qualified teachers and Renishaw’s STEM ambassadors, that can be used for free by schools or groups of young people for lessons or workshops. The FDC was actually in use by Radyr Comprehensive School students long before it was officially launched by Andy Green, a driver for Bloodhound SSC, a 3D printing user and Renishaw partner which also devotes many resources to education about the technology.

Ultimaker Launched New 3D Printing Core Lessons for STEAM Education

Lesson 1: Coin Traps

In April, Ultimaker launched its new Ultimaker Core Lessons: STEAM Set for educators. Eight free lessons, published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, are included in the set, which can help teachers in informal, K12, or Higher Ed classrooms incorporate 3D printing into their educational practices and STEAM curriculum. Some of the beginner lessons include 3D printing a coin trap, flashlight, and penny whistle, and can teach young students important skills like how to align objects, using symbols to communicate ideas, and how to effectively work together on creative projects.

PrintLab Teamed Up with CREATE Education Team

UK-based global 3D printing distributor and curriculum provider PrintLab partnered with UK 3D printing company CREATE Education, a collaborative platform that provides educators with free resources and support, in order to support schools all across the UK with 3D printing. Each company’s educational 3D printing offerings will be combined in this partnership so that UK schools can enjoy unlimited access to full 3D printing solutions for the classroom, which will be locally supported for life by CREATE. Multiple initiatives came out of this partnership to support teachers, like  3D printer loan schemes, funding advice and resources, special training and curriculum workshops, and new educational 3D printing bundles.

3Doodler Introduced New Educational Kits

3Doodler has long supported education, and often releases new STEM-centered educational packages, including its latest classroom product line: the 3Doodler Create+ EDU Learning Pack and 3Doodler Start EDU Learning Pack. Each pack, designed for and with teachers, was designed specially for classrooms from kindergarten to 12th grade and includes 6 or 12 3Doodler pens (Create or Start, depending on the package) and 600 or 1,200 strands of plastic, as well as other tech accessories, lesson plans, and classroom materials. Additionally, the company released its 3Doodler Create+ EDU Teacher Experience Kit and 3Doodler EDU Start Teacher Experience Kit, which are designed to be trial packs for teachers who are thinking about introducing the 3Doodler into their classrooms.

Robo Acquired MyStemKits

3D printer manufacturer Robo announced this summer that it had acquired Atlanta company MyStemKits, which provides the largest online library of STEM curriculum in the world. Thanks to this acquisition, Robo is now offering educational bundles that include its classroom-friendly 3D printers, a supply of filament, one-year subscriptions to MyStemKits, and additional professional development and online learning.

GE Additive’s Education Program Provided Five Universities with Metal 3D Printers

GE’s Additive Education Program (AEP) – a five-year, $10 million, two-part initiative to provide 3D printers to as many schools as possible – chose five universities this summer to receive an Mlab 200R from the program. 500 proposals were submitted for this round of the program, and GE Additive chose German’s Coburg University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Ireland’s University of Limerick, the Calhoun Community College in Alabama, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and West Virginia University as the lucky winners.

3D Printing In Fashion Education

In a recently published paper, titled “Integration of 3 Dimensional Modeling and Printing into Fashion Design Curriculum: Opportunities and Challenges,” Nicole Eckerson and Li Zhao from the University of Missouri discussed whether 3D printing should be integrated into fashion design curriculum. The researchers noted that while 3D printing has been recognized as a major influence in the work of designers and engineers, educators in the fashion industry are facing a lack of time, resources, and knowledge to teach the technology to students. The two conducted semi-structured interviews with eight 3D printing industry  experts and academic professionals for their research, and came up with three distinct themes from their data about why 3D printing should be adopted, and taught, in fashion.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at or share your thoughts below.

3D Printing News Briefs: October 13, 2018

We’ve got business and education news galore in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs. First, Voodoo Manufacturing has launched its new Shopify app, and BeAM Machines is partnering with Empa, while Sculpteo is working with a property developer to provide 3D printed apartment models. VSHAPER has signed an agreement with educational publisher Grupa MAC, and the United Arab Emirates is introducing 3D printing into over 200 of its primary schools. The US Navy will be testing the first 3D printed ship component, and Lufthansa Technik has established a new Additive Manufacturing Center. Finally, maker Thomas Sanladerer shared on YouTube about his recent visit to the Prusa headquarters.

Voodoo Manufacturing Launches Shopify App

This spring, high-volume 3D printing factory Voodoo Manufacturing began its full-stack manufacturing and fulfillment service for 3D printing entrepreneurs, which allows users to outsource work like quality control and assembly for their products through its easy shopfront integrations with online marketplaces like Shopify. Now, the company has launched its own Shopify app, which will allow online sellers to create and customize 3D printed products and sell them on their own Shopify stores. Once the app is installed, users can make their first product in less than 5 minutes, which is then automatically added to their store, ready for purchase.

“We wanted to make it ridiculously easy for ecommerce stores to diversify their product offering with 3D printed products. By applying 3D printing to the print-on-demand business model, we are opening up an infinite range of product categories for Shopify merchants,” said Max Friefeld, the Founder and CEO of Voodoo Manufacturing. “The Voodoo app provides a new source of high quality, customizable, on-demand products, that don’t require any 3D design experience.”

Before the official launch this week, Voodoo piloted the service with a group of beta users, including It’s The Island Life by graphic designer and Guam native Lucy Hutcheson. She is already successfully selling six different products made with the help of the new Voodoo app.

BeAM Machines Partnering with Empa

BeAM, recently acquired by AddUp, has signed a research and development agreement with Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. Together, the two will develop novel applications for BeAM’s powder-based Directed Energy Deposition (DED) technology, which uses focused thermal energy to fuse materials by melting them while they’re deposited. This makes parts manufacturing much faster. The partnership has come on the heels of Empa’s acquisition of a BeAM DED 3D printer, which is located at its Laboratory for Advanced Materials Processing in Thun and is used to integrate and test out innovative components.

Patrik Hoffmann, who leads the laboratory, said, “We are very excited to collaborate with BeAM’s engineers to push the boundaries of this innovative additive manufacturing technology and to develop a whole new range of applications for Swiss industries and beyond.”

Sculpteo 3D Printing Apartment Models

Together with Sculpteo, French property developer Valoptim is working to improve customer experience by providing clients with miniaturized 3D printed models of their future apartments when they sign their contracts, so they can better visualize and prepare for moving into their new home. These small, exact replicas give new owners an immersive experience, which is a definite value add. In addition, production of the 3D printed models is local, and can be done fast.

“Sculpteo uses the best machines and 3D printing processes on the market today. At first, we had the ambition to test the feasibility of 3D printing in the real estate sector. This innovative process has proven to be extremely interesting: the realistic rendering, with high-end finishes, allowed our clients to discover a miniaturized version of their future apartment enabling them to realistically imagine themselves living in it,” said Edouard Pellerin, CEO of Valoptim. “This innovation contributes to our business dynamic: constantly improving the customer experience.”

VSHAPER and Grupa Mac Sign Agreement

Polish 3D printer manufacturer Verashape has signed an agreement with Grupa MAC, the country’s top educational publisher, in front of Poland’s education curators at the recent Future of Education Congress. Per the agreement, Grupa MAC will use a network of educational consultants to distribute the VSHAPER GO 3D printers to kindergartens and other schools in the country. Grupa MAC recognizes that 3D printers are a good way to quickly present the effects of students’ learning, and the VSHAPER GO is the perfect choice, as it is easy to use and comes with an intuitive interface of SOFTSHAPER software.

“Classes with students are a perfect environment for the use of 3D Printing. Creating a pyramid model for history lessons, the structure of a flower or a human body for biology lessons are just a few examples, and their list is limited only by the imagination of students and teachers,” said Patryk Tomczyk, a member of the Grupa MAC Management Board. “We are happy that thanks to our cooperation with VERASHAPE, 3D Printers have a chance to reach schools through our network of educational consultants.”

3D Printing to be Introduced in UAE Primary Schools

Speaking of 3D printing in education, the Ministry of Education (MoE) for the UAE has announced that in early 2019, a country-wide introduction of 3D printing into over 200 primary schools will commence. As part of this new technology roll out, Dubai education consultancy company Ibtikar is partnering with Makers Empire, an Australian education technology company, to deliver a program that implements 3D printing and design. Makers Empire will supply 3D software, curriculum, teacher resources, training, and support to Ibtikar, which will in turn train MoE teachers to deliver the program.

“Through this rollout of 3D technology, our students will learn to reframe needs as actionable statements and to create solutions to real-world problems,” said HE Eng. Abdul Rahman of the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education. “In doing so, our students will develop an important growth mindset, the skills they need to make their world better and the essential ability to persist when encountering setbacks.”

US Navy Approves Test of First 3D Printed Shipboard Part

USS Harry S. Truman

The US military has long explored the use of 3D printing to lower costs and increase the availability of spare parts. Huntington Ingalls Industries, the largest military shipbuilder in the US, has also been piloting new technologies, like 3D printing, as part of its digital transformation. In collaboration with the US Navy, the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division has worked to speed the adoption of 3D printed metal components for nuclear-powered warships. This has led to an exciting announcement by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA): a metal drain strainer orifice (DSO) prototype has officially been approved as the first 3D printed metal part to be installed on a US Navy ship. The assembly is a component for the steam system, which allows for drainage and removal of water from a steam line while in use. The 3D printed DSO prototype will be installed on the USS Harry S. Truman in 2019 for evaluation and tests. After one year, the assembly will be removed for inspection and analysis.

“This install marks a significant advancement in the Navy’s ability to make parts on demand and combine NAVSEA’s strategic goal of on-time delivery of ships and submarines while maintaining a culture of affordability. By targeting CVN 75 [USS Harry S. Truman], this allows us to get test results faster, so-if successful-we can identify additional uses of additive manufacturing for the fleet,” said Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, NAVSEA Chief Engineer and Deputy Commander for Ship Design, Integration, and Naval Engineering.

Lufthansa Technik Opens New Additive Manufacturing Center

Lufthansa Technik, a leading provider of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) for civil aircraft, has established a new Additive Manufacturing Center. The goal of the new AM Center is to bundle and expand the company’s experience and competence with the technology, which can be used to make individual parts more quickly and with more design freedom. As the world of aircraft is always aware of weight, making more lightweight parts is an excellent benefit of 3D printing.

“The new AM Center will serve as a collaborative hub where the experience and skills that Lufthansa Technik has gained in additive manufacturing can be bundled and further expanded,” said Dr. Aenne Koester, the head of the new AM Center. “The aim is to increase the degree of maturity of the technologies and to develop products that are suitable for production.”

Tom’s 3D Visits Prusa Headquarters 

Maker Thomas Sanladerer, who runs his own YouTube channel, recently had the chance to tour the Prusa Research headquarters in Prague. Not only did he get the opportunity to see how the company makes its popular MK3 and and MK2.5, but Sanladerer was also able to see early models of the company’s recently announced SL1 resin 3D printer, as well as the Prusament filament production line.

“I always find factory tours like this super interesting because it’s the only chance you really get of seeing behind the scenes of what might really just be a website, or you know, a marketing video or whatever,” Sanladerer said in his video.

Sanladerer took the tour of the Prusa factory right after Maker Faire Prague, which the company itself organized and sponsored. To see behind the scenes of Prusa for yourself, check out the rest of the video below:

Discuss these stories and other 3D printing topics at or share your thoughts below.