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Educators restrict student access to 3D printers

Educators lack the means to manage printer access despite recognising the learning benefits of 3D printing, new research finds

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | January 30, 2017 | Technology

Y Soft Corporation has announced the results of an international survey on 3D printing in the education sector. 

The survey asked 3D printer owners in education a broad set of questions about 3D printing use to ascertain how educators were including 3D technology in their classrooms. Among the results, 87%, limit student access to 3D printing.

Respondents overwhelmingly cited motivation, creativity and use of technology with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) subjects as the reasons their school was bringing 3D printers into the classroom. However, the survey indicated current 3D printers are lacking in three main areas which caused educators to restrict student access or under-utilise them:

Inability to manage and control access to the 3D printer. Consequently, 3D printers are locked in a room requiring special access, available only during special hours, or worse, the student has to ask the teacher/teacher aid to print the model. Therefore, the 3D printer is often under-utilised. 

Without a comprehensive solution that addresses access, costs and curriculum, educators and students will not receive the full value of 3D printing when access to the printers are restricted

Educators are not able to manage 3D printing time and materials costs in order to allocate expenses per classroom or department. Also, in schools where pay-to-print systems exist for paper printing, no similar systems exist for 3D printers.

“Educators’ main reason for bringing 3D printing into the classroom is to motivate students in the subject matter and provide a creative means to learn,” commented Vaclav Muchna, CEO and co-founder of Y Soft.

“Without a comprehensive solution that addresses access, costs and curriculum, educators and students will not receive the full value of 3D printing when access to the printers are restricted.”

The survey also shed light on positive aspects that are encouraging for the continued growth of 3D printing in the education sector. These include:

Despite the lack of a full solution and an inability to justify ROI (90%), educators are not ready to give up – 77% indicated an intention to increase or dramatically increase the purchase of 3D printers.

3D printing is used primarily for STEM subjects but many, 45%, allow students use in other areas as well. Adoption of 3D printing is primarily in higher education including university research institutions (55%). This may be due to the fact that there is no mandate as yet to include 3D printing in lower education. However, 23% have introduced 3D printing in primary schools. 

The full survey report is also available as a download on the Y Soft website: www.ysoft.com/en

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