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3D Printing in the Classroom: 5 Sources for 3D Designs

By February 17, 2017 No Comments

Imagine having one technology that allows you to:

  • Teach students problem-solving and how to apply creativity in practical ways
  • More easily engage students in the learning process
  • Develop mathematical and design skills – at the same time
  • Handle objects previously considered too delicate or valuable to touch
  • Encourage innovation

That technology already exists. It’s called 3D printing.

The Power of 3D Printing in Education

3D printing is one of the technologies covered in NMC Horizon Project’s report “Technology Outlook STEM+ Education 2013-2018.” The organization believes we’ll see widespread adoption in classrooms in as little as two to three years.

Is 3D printing really that valuable to education? It has the potential to be. This infographic details ways to use 3D printing to supplement lessons in many school subjects, not just science. From replicas of historical items to 3D maps, 3D printing adds another dimension (pun intended) to your lesson plans.

And if you’re not that talented with 3D design yourself, that’s okay. Many other educators and designers have already started creating tons of designs for you to use in your classroom, several of which you can find below.

(For schools that don’t have their own devices but still want to use 3D printing to create objects for instructional purposes, we and other companies offer on-demand services.)

Where to Find 3D Designs to Fit Your Lessons

GB3D Type Fossils

This project is collecting 3D files of fossil specimens from British museums and organizations such as the British Geological Survey and Oxford University Museum of Natural History. You can search fossils by genus, species, age, and more, so if you want to show your students what snails looked like 5 million years ago, go ahead.


Teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron uses 3D printing to work with students struggling with literacy and writing (not what you would expect from 3D printing, huh?). She shares several lesson plans (such as this one) on her blog.


Clark Barnett is another teacher utilizing 3D printing (plus other technologies) in the classroom. His blog offers a range of lessons you can use in your classroom, plus information on 3D printing in general and its benefits for students.


If there is something specific you want to print, but you don’t have a 3D file for, chances are you can find it on Thingiverse. Anyone can upload a file to the site to share with others, so there’s plenty to choose from – but the quality might be a little questionable for some items.

Future Engineers Star Trek Replicator Challenge

Do you have any sci-fi fans in your classroom? This challenge is over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take the guidelines and develop your own project for your students. And you can show your students what others have come up with to help them jumpstart their own creativity.

Your Students Themselves are a Great Source of Ideas

We don’t often promote our software in our blog posts, but we know it’s not always possible for teachers to get access to 3D printers or 3D design software. But that doesn’t mean your students don’t have awesome designs that need developing. In fact, we’ve worked with several different schools to turn student designs into physical objects (including Hammond Elementary School and Bridge Creek Elementary).

Get Your Students Designing

If you want engaged students who take initiative and are excited about their work, 3D printing is the way to go. Once you give these suggestions a try, let us know the results. We’d love to see what your students come up with!