Why 3D Printing is More Than Just Cool


On the surface, 3D printing may seem gimmicky.  Often, people see a little printed figurine or toy and the initial amazement is replaced quickly by the thought, "but why do I care?"

It's only after watching a student conceive of, design, process and print something completely from their own imagination that it hits home.  3D printing is about creating.  It's about designing an object in the mind, then using science to make it real.


One of the things we do at Napa STEM Academy is encourage students to design their own games.  3D printing is a big part of this process.  

Students can develop a board game of their own.  They design everything about it - the play style, the board, the cards, the dice and the play pieces.  Then they print the dice and the play pieces that they designed!  They can paint the pieces once they are printed.  They can print coins or tokens as well.  Which means they can design their own tokens with their own art ideas.

While they are designing, they are using science concepts like measurements (converting units, etc) and structural integrity.  They are also using computer tools to help them visualize the design they are wanting to build.

In the picture below, a Napa STEM Student designed and printed a small figurine that can then be used as a game piece.



If you have middle school or younger kids, you know about fidget spinners.  These things were rampantly popular with younger teens and tweens (and are still a thing).  Well, with a little thought and a 3D printer, kids can make their own fidget spinners.  In the picture below, one of our staff is helping a student design a fidget spinner using a program called TinkerCAD.  Once the design is complete, the file will be processed using a separate program called a slicer (in our case, Simplify 3D) and sent to the printer!  With a center bearing and some bearing caps (purchased from Amazon) and some creative design work, the kids will have a completely unique toy that they created from start to finish!



Drop in on us any time and spend an hour getting up to speed with 3D printing!

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Lauren McClure