3D printing offers a wide range of benefits, from the production of lightweight and quality parts to speed, affordability, and the opportunity to work in a self-sustained fashion, often cutting out the middleman. While most of these benefits also apply to design projects being produced in schools, the technology—now available in many learning institutions at all levels—also teaches students about advanced and alternative manufacturing, providing them with progressive skill sets that are projected to be in high demand in the future.
At Inholland University in the Netherlands, aviation technology students recently made a functional 3D printed rocket in class. In this project they learned about all the details that must be considered for end-use parts required for such a lightweight rocket—from aerodynamics to weight and strength. The first two rockets the students built were fully functional, measuring eight feet tall. They were not completely 3D printed, however, constructed also with composite carbon fiber parts. The class is now working on a new rocket that is made of all 3D printed parts, and this involves making some adjustments in their design process so that 3D printing is considered at the time parts are being conceptualized and designed.
The Ultimaker 2+ is the 3D printer of choice at Inholland, producing the lightweight parts required. The students learned about speed in turnaround times in comparison to traditional manufacturing—along with seeing how quickly they could re-design and improve parts when necessary without incurring great expense.
“We use 3D printing primarily in the design process,” says Martin Kampinga, aviation technology teacher at Inholland. “We design a model on the PC and print it out to continue working on it.”
“We’re an applied sciences study, so everything we teach we try to apply in practice as well,” continued Kampinga. “Students primarily learn about strength calculations, aerodynamics, everything that has something to do with airplanes.”
The second rocket, Aquilo II, was successfully launched by the class, returning to them by parachute. It’s beneficial in any environment to be able to produce objects at an accelerated rate, but especially in the classroom as users are only there for a limited time each week.
“I think every university should use this in their curriculum,” says Kampinga. “University is where it happens.”
“Students that are graduating 4 years from now will see that technologies have changed in the course of their studies. Educational institutions should provide students with the latest knowledge and developments and show them that alternative production methods like 3D printing exist.”
If you are interested in creating a similar lesson plan in your own classroom, see more information on that from Ultimaker here. You can also find out more about using 3D printing at the university level here.