3D printers

Why some schools are restricting student access to 3D printers

Results indicate 77 percent of schools will increase 3D printers.

Respondents said 3D printers are lacking in three main areas, and those areas prompt educators to restrict students’ access to the devices:

• 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 alternatively, the student has to ask the teacher/teacher aid to print the model. Therefore, the 3D printer is often under-used.
• 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.
• Lack of guidance on adding 3D printing to classroom curriculums.

“We hear from schools that they buy 3D printers, but often lock them up so students and users cannot access them because there is no way to manage access and costs associated with their use,” said Tim Greene, IDC Research Director. “It defeats the purpose of the 3D printer in education which is meant to motivate student learning. In the end, the printer goes unused.”

Twenty-nine percent of survey participants said their 3D printing program is “very successful” and they “could not live without it;” 67 percent said their institution’s program is somewhat successful, with both positives and negatives; and 4 percent said their program is unsuccessful.

Despite respondents indicating a lack of a full solution and an inability to justify ROI (90 percent), educators are not ready to give up–77 percent said they intend to slightly or dramatically increase the purchase of 3D printers.

Although respondents said they mainly use 3D printing for STEAM, 45 percent said students use it in other areas as well.

Adoption of 3D printing is primarily in higher education, including university research institutions (55 percent). This may be due to the fact that there is no mandate as yet to include 3D printing in K-12 education. However, 23 percent of respondents said they do introduce 3D printing in elementary schools.

The survey was conducted by Dimensional Research in November 2016.

Laura Ascione
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