Even though 3D printers have been around for almost 30 years, the recent rise of low-cost printers has led some to proclaim the onset of a new industrial revolution. Schools and libraries all over the world are bringing these powerful tools to students in classrooms and dedicated “makerspaces” where they are accompanied by other fabrication tools. For example, China is putting 3D printers in each of its 400,000 elementary schools. In the U.S., are adding 3D printers into schools at a good rate, particularly into CAD programs, but also into traditional art and social studies classrooms and even business programs.

If 3D printing is starting a new industrial revolution, it is well on its way to revolutionizing teaching and learning as well. The result of bringing these tools into classrooms is a rekindling of the powerful pedagogy of hands-on learning. 3D printing leverages hands-on learning to deepen our educational approach to traditional educational subjects. With 3D printers, teachers can literally add another dimension to their classroom practice; can use 3D printed objects to illustrate complex concepts, make abstract and inaccessible objects tangible, improve students’ spatial abilities and create a richer, more engaging learning environment.

3D printers are gaining popularity internationally across STEM education. So far the technology has been restricted largely to Design and Technology (DT) classrooms. There is considerable potential, however, for them to be used within a range of educational subjects, for example to enable links to be made between mathematics, design and physics in a similar way to, for example, ‘sound’ enabling links between music, physics (wave properties), biology (hearing) and engineering (concert hall design). Equipping learners to understand the application and potential of this new type of technology will be important to helping prepare them for a world in which similar technologies will be increasingly commonplace.

3D printing is an important technological development that aims to facilitate and grow a variety of social and scientific disciplines. So how could 3D printing be missing from education? 3D printing enables the learners to learn more complex concepts and provide them with new “tools”. Students can touch the concepts explained in class, such as various geometric shapes. Moreover, 3D printing in education:

  • Helping students to approach many disciplines (e.g. mathematics, physics, biology)

  • Provide better observation in arts (e.g. sculpture, architecture, painting)

  • Accelerate learning time, since they represent the theory in the most imaginative way

  • Promote teamwork required by trainers and trainees for a 3D design object

  • Make the lesson pleasant and creative, thus giving students more motivation

  • Develop judgment and observability

Despite potential benefits, there are many barriers to the integration of new technologies into the education system. Along with institutional, cultural, assessment and resource barriers, these include teacher attitudes and beliefs, and teacher knowledge and skills. As a new digital fabrication technology, 3D Printing is not immune to these integration challenges; in the education system the current generation of teachers is not well positioned to take advantage of these capabilities. This lack of readiness derives from the fact that many teachers do not fully understand engineering, engineering habits of mind, or design thinking. This expertise is not currently provided in teacher preparation programmes. Others believe that teachers are not receiving sufficient guidance on the use and maintenance of 3D printers. This speaks to a more general need in the education system of teaching educators about 3D printing, supporting their professional development, and enabling their ability to teach others about 3DP.

3D Printing in VET aims to introduce the use of 3D Printers in Vocational Education and Training in Europe. In order to introduce the 3D printers in vocational schools and institutes in partners countries, the project consortium will explore the status quo on training structures in different EU countries and develop a highly innovative, internationally competitive training programme on 3D printing use.


The 3D Printing Training Programme

The project will firstly investigate the essential skills and competences that a VET educator/ teacher should have in order to use a 3D printer in a VET class. Based on research activities (IO1 and IO2), partners will proceed to the definition of the standard key competencies for VET teachers in the field.

With skills mapping we aim to develop an innovative training programme, tailored to VET teachers and educators that are teaching several subjects and disciplines (eg. science, technology, engineering, mathematics, physics, biology, arts; sculpture, architecture, painting, etc). The proposed training course’s aims to prepare VET teachers and educators to apply and use 3D printers in their classes. The training programme developed under this grant will consist of modules covering several subtopics and will be delivered via online learning platform. The modularized training programme will permit trainees to test out of particular modules or subtopics if they have past experience in an area.

An International Network

The 3D Printing Network will be incorporated and will be named the official proprietor of the pilot training course. It will license Network members to offer the course nationally. Although initially limited to six countries, it will be our goal -once the grant is over- to expand the network to include additional partners and additional countries. The Moodle training course will then be adapted to the needs of new partners with the addition of new educational material and professionals/ interested parties across Europe will be given the opportunity to enroll at a participation fee, which ensure the project’s viability after its completion.

A Model for Technology−Assisted Planning, Development, Monitoring and Delivery of Training Courses

A very important bi−product of the project will be the development of a model for the use of communication technology to facilitate the development and delivery of training courses. The communication methods to be employed in this project could be used to build learning communities for educational purposes, however, may also be employed for project development and management. What we intend, in short, is to develop a model of technology-assisted project management and training delivery which we will adapt to educational needs.

Other expected results during the project implementation are the following:

  • Research report on 3D PRINTING in VET

    All consortium countries will participate in the research through data collection and analysis on skills and competencies required by VET teachers and educators in order to use 3D printers in their classes. Should be mention that few researches and need analysis have been carried out in the field. This need analysis could be the basis for further research on the analysis of 3D PRINTING in VET in EU countries

  • Guidelines for course and online facilitators

    In order to assist the trainers that will take part in the JSTE and provide them with instructions on theories and study content of the curriculum, a handbook for teachers and educators will be developed for the target users translated into national languages. This guide book will also provide instructions on how to use IC Tools and applications such as electronic discussions, and how make the most out of the internet-based learning.

  • Set of modular training materials

    Course materials, including theory and practice which can be adapted in line with national, regional needs.

  • 3D Printing Pilot Courses

    A total of 7 pilot courses (one international course and 6 national courses), each with a face-to-face orientation, followed by on-line instruction, all following the same structure and curriculum.