Inspiring Students with 3D Printers, Laser Cutters, and Vacuum Formers in the Classroom

One of the most exciting parts of living in this time in history is witnessing the way in which teachers are using technology like 3D printers, laser cutters, and vacuum formers in the classroom and inspiring students to push their boundaries, see what is possible, and unlock their potential.

Watching children and young adults learn how they can use this technology to not only make their ideas and imaginations come to life, but also discover how they can use these skills and machines to inspire positive change in the world, is nothing short of beautiful.

Introducing students to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) allows them to discover passions in areas they may not have known existed within themselves. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities and sparks ideas that ultimately, could make a difference in the lives of others.

We are raising the next generation of change-makers who have the potential to solve real-world problems. Putting the right tools into their hands to make that potential a reality, is something we should all be striving for.

Inspiring Students with 3D Printing in the Classroom

Students working with the 3D printer and e-NABLE project

Seeing a 3D printer in an elementary school classroom full of 8-year-olds may have some people wondering what these children could possibly be designing and making with it that could be considered educational or useful.

Teachers are not just having students learn how to create their own designs for things to print out on the 3D printer but they are also 3D printing open-source and free models of objects, like statues, animals, historical artifacts, and mathematical shapes for students to have hands-on learning opportunities. This is helpful for tactile and kinesthetic learners who struggle with textbook-based learning and gives them a way to hold an object in their hands and get a better understanding of the subject through touch.

There are many great service-learning projects available to participate in for students that teach them how they can use math, science, and technology, to make a difference in the lives of real people, oftentimes, other children their own age.

The e-NABLE community banner


One of the largest and most impactful projects that are being incorporated into many classrooms is e-NABLE, which is a global community of volunteers who create free 3D printed hands, arms, animal prosthetics, PPE (personal protective equipment), and assistive tools for those in need. This project is being used in thousands of schools all over the world from K-12 to higher education classrooms to teach human centered design.

3D printed prosthetic hands by the e-NABLE community

When students realize they can use the skills they have learned in STEM to make real change and get to see their efforts and work being used to help others, over and over, we find that they start thinking of various ways that they can help to solve other real-world problems. Many of these students who have participated in the e-NABLE project have discovered an interest in STEM-based career paths that they previously had not considered before.

3D printers in classrooms are not just inspiring students to create in the NOW, they are often a catalyst for inspiring students to think about creating for the FUTURE.

3D printed prosthetic e-NABLE hands and kits

For more information on the e-NABLE Community, how to get involved, and how to get started in your classroom making 3D printed assistive devices for real recipients, please visit enablingthefuture.org.

A discount is available on e-NABLE hand kits for educators and e-NABLE members who are actively involved in the charitable fabrication of these devices. Email info@3duniverse.org for more details.

Vacuum Forming in the Classroom

Class projects created with a vacuum former

While 3D printing is a fantastic learning opportunity for students of all ages, there are many schools that do not have a budget for that kind of investment in their classrooms and have instead chosen to turn to vacuum formers like the Mayku FormBox instead.

Students get hands-on learning opportunities with the vacuum former as they create molds from materials like clay, paper, potatoes, cardboard, 3D printed or laser cut shapes, and craft supplies which allows them to have that tactile encounter with their project that many children need.

Unlike a 3D printer, which can take hours to make one object for one or two students and limits how many students can use it at one time, the Mayku FormBox vacuum former can make a mold for each student in a matter of minutes. This gives each student the opportunity to use the machine and have a final project to take home with them on the same day.

There are many great examples of how teachers are using the vacuum former in their classrooms to teach product and art design and environmental science as well as many other lessons. Mayku has put together some fantastic projects for students of all ages. You can download their Mayku STEM Pack which includes 13 lesson plans for your students!

Laser Cutting in the Classroom

Inspiring students with Laser cutters

Laser cutters in classrooms allow students to turn their ideas into prototypes and make changes quickly and easily, produce their first scale models, encourage creativity and develop critical thinking skills.

The speed in which the laser cutter can finish a project allows for quick production of designs so you can get more students on the machine in a shorter amount of time and still make changes as needed to get a final product.

With a wide variety of materials that can be cut and etched by a laser cutter, this makes it a perfect addition to any classroom from K-12 to community colleges and all the way up through higher education.

Whether you have students creating architectural models, art pieces from fabric, metal, paper, acrylic, wood, and many other materials or you use it to have students creating packaging, signage, school branding, stop motion animations, fund raising items or many other things, the applications are endless with a laser cutter in the classroom.

Inspiring Students by Combining Technologies

The Mayku FormBox with an Ultimaker 3D printer used for inspiring students

What happens when you combine all 3 machines and give your students a variety of design tech to work with? Magic! Magic happens!

Students can easily and quickly produce molds from laser cut or 3d printed shapes and designs with the vacuum former, they can combine 3D printed parts with laser-cut pieces to build stronger models and they can create packaging for their finished laser cut or 3D printed products and so much more!

laser cut designs used to make molds on the Mayku FormBox Vacuum Former

Giving students a variety of tech-based tools to use in the classroom, not only provides them the opportunity to have a more enriching STEM learning experience, but it has the potential to get them thinking in ways that paper and textbook learning simply can not.

Educational Resources

If you are interested in learning more about free resources for your classroom, downloading guidebooks, lesson plans, and project ideas for 3D printing, laser cutting, and vacuum forming, please make sure to visit our educational resources page that provides links to a variety of creative ideas and projects to share with your students!

For more information on 3D printers, laser cutters or vacuum formers, educational discounts, quotes and more, please reach out to us at info@shop3duniverse.org.

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