Using 3D Printing to Enable Active Learning and Build Career Readiness

Using 3D printing to enable active learning, build career readiness and help students gain high-demand skills

In the race to attract, retain and prepare students, the institutions with the most relevant programs and most current technologies have an advantage. Hands-on learning through 3D printing at a college or university opens doors to entrepreneurship and industry collaborations that benefit budding scientists, engineers, artists and designers by preparing them for the requirements of the knowledge-based economy.

This web seminar showed how the Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis is using 3D printing in innovative ways to enable active learning and to build career readiness, helping students gain high-demand skills for a wide variety of career fields.

Gina Scala

Director of Education Marketing    


Ryan Hayford

Partner Executive    


Alex Wong

Engineering, Drafting and Design Instructor    

Dunwoody College of Technology (Minn.)

Gina Scala: We see 3D printing as a great method for active, project-based learning. 3D printing builds up extruding things layer by layer—it’s considered additive manufacturing, where you produce things that are amazing and much more complex than you can with subtractive, and it’s much easier. I was with educators this morning who said it takes them a full semester to teach subtractive to some of their students, but additive has a very easy learning curve to get folks up and running and designing at least some simple parts.

There are lots of different types of 3D printing on the market. FDM has been on the market for about 30 years. The large majority of printers are using FDM technology. It’s reliable and it’s inexpensive. When we think of stereolithography, we’re thinking of things that have smooth textures. Then, if you think about selective laser sintering, that’s often in powder, and metals are considered a part of this as well. Then PolyJet, which is a Stratasys technology. If you think about that, you think about full colors.

Where is it being utilized? In industry, the majority of the market is FDM. In education, it depends on the program—engineering, design, math, physics and architecture are often using FDM. We see art, consumer products and medical using PolyJet due to its full-color capabilities.

Stratasys owns two of those types of technology: FDM and PolyJet. 3D printing has evolved quite a bit in our 30 year history. Even in the last 10 years that we’ve been working with schools, it’s gone from, “Oh wow, what is that, a 3D printer?” to “Look at all these things that I can do with a 3D printer!” We’ve evolved, and we’ve started to prepare students by challenging them to create a product, to create a functional part that will launch, to create something that they use on their robot that’s lighter.

Ryan Hayford: Why does 3D printing exist? Thirty years ago, 3D printing was created and developed to reduce time to market and to lower production development costs. Now, in the past few years, the industry has transformed dramatically. We’re seeing a lot of end-use manufacturing or end-use parts being made with 3D printing. Our world now is very customizable. You think about wearable technology. People are creating customized shoes and sneakers and clothes. Any kind of goods and products are now being customized, so industries are adapting to and developing customized parts.

Automotive and aerospace are creating stuff all the time. We’re seeing a part that was traditionally steel or titanium now manufactured with thermoplastics. It not only cuts cost, but it also cuts time. Last year our market hit the $5.1 billion mark. The hype that we’ve seen around 3D printing has all been positive, and it’s only continuing to grow. A lot of that has to do with materials.

One of our most successful materials has been Ultem 9085. This is a flame-retardant, FST-certified material, which means flame-smoke-toxicity-approved—a material that was made in conjunction with Boeing and GE, which is now approved to go inside airplanes and jets.

If you can imagine the inside of some of those Gulfstream private planes, they want to customize the interior. Instead of going to tooling and getting expensive steel or metal, they can 3D-print with Ultem 9085. They are even 3D-printing and mass-producing altimeters with Ultem 9085. It’s because it is saving money and saving time.

In the medical world, some of the stuff we have done in the past few years has been tremendous. We talk about saving costs and saving money but in the medical world it’s about saving a life. They are creating new devices every day in order to help practice actual surgeries right then and there.

Alex Wong: We get a variety of different students at our college. We get a lot of the typical students, those who are young, fresh out of high school, those college freshmen. More often, we’re starting to get older students who may be either returning to school or pursuing a second degree. We also get students who are re-training for different reasons—injury on the workforce, changes in technology, or even just changes in economics. And we get a lot of veterans.

The one thing that ties all these different groups together is that we try to teach them with hands-on learning. All our students like to learn with their hands. They like to be able to pick up and explore and feel and touch and be able to manipulate things in the physical world, instead of just sticking with a book theory or doing calculations.

That’s where our 3D printing helps out a lot. We have our EM3 Lab, which covers engineering, materials, mechanics and metrology. We have primarily FDM printers on campus, and we recently helped Stratasys beta-test their F370, or their F123 Platform, by testing one of the machines directly in one of our product design rooms.

How are we using this technology in the classroom? It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or complicated. In our blueprint reading class, students sometimes have difficulty wrapping their mind around a three-dimensional part that’s spread out on two-dimensional paper. Using 3D printing, we can take some of the example parts from their textbook and print them out.

We also use 3D printing in part creation, to go from a virtual part to a real part. That allows us to do things like rapid prototyping and quick iterations, and it allows us to bring in real-world projects.

My aim for the students is that when they graduate they bring examples of their work to an interview. Compare that to just a paper rÁ©sumÁ©.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit


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