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3D Printing in Art: Making Functional Items

The invention of the 3D printer has added a new layer of creativity to the art world. Artists all over the globe are using 3D printers to produce artworks as simple as a coaster, or as complicated as a recreation of Michelangelo’s David. But what is the average school art teacher to do with the sudden appearance of this new tool of artistic expression? If you are fortunate enough to be employed by a school district that sees the value in continued artistic growth for its students, you probably have access to this great machine.

As an introduction to 3D printer use in the classroom, instruct the students to design a simple, yet useful item. For example, a textured stamp for pressing clay, a stand for a pair of glasses, or a drink coaster.  Next, choose a filament and allow the students to print their functional objects. Trial and error are a big part of 3D printing, both for the amateur artist, and the professional. Hopefully, your students can learn from their own mistakes and the mistakes of others. Use failed attempts as a topic of discussion. Allow students to problem solve and to troubleshoot what may have gone wrong. Critical thinking is key when using any type of technology, and the 3D printer is no exception.

Many art teachers shy away from using technology and computers in their classrooms, in favour of hands-on visual arts.  The 3D printer will allow even the least technologically comfortable teacher to successfully broaden the students’ horizons.