As part of our Computing & ICT curriculum, I run several projects in which students use a 3D Printer Pen. These pens rapidly melt and then cool plastic filament. The activities are perfect for any unit related to design, and the pen provides students with the opportunity to literally draw in 3D. Because of the relatively low cost, I bought 24 GooDee 3D Printer Pens for my school. Each pen already came with a 20 metre roll of plastic filament to get started. This is enough print plastic for a few small 3D models (I have since had to buy more, but the rolls of plastic are relatively inexpensive).
Using a template in which to trace, a good warm up for the students is to create “hipster” glasses. The best method that we have found to make these glasses is to draw with a zigzag motion along the outline of the template, building the plastic up in several layers. The speed at which the plastic filament is melted and comes through the pen can be adjusted, the slower setting allowing students more control over their drawing.
This activity of learning how to use the 3D Printer Pen and then creating the hipster glasses takes up to an hour. For the following lesson, I ask my students to then design their own template for a computer game character or object using Google Drawing. With their custom made templates ready, the skills that the students develop in terms of pen control from having created the hipster glasses beforehand really come in handy for this second activity. I filmed this short video clip below, which shows how one student began creating her model cactus using a template that she had designed with Google Drawing:
I’ve included a collection of examples of students’ work in this slideshow below:
The 3D Printer Pens are fun for students to use and gives them an opportunity to see how a design created on paper can materialise into a physical object. Although I introduced these activities as part of a unit on design, there is no reason why 3D pens could not be used just as well for other topics (e.g. Shapes in maths.) Having to use the tool meticulously in order to get the desired results is also a good exercise in concentration, patience and tenacity! Based on my experience, getting the students to first create the hipster glasses is a good activity to start with because it teaches them the necessary skills to create even more customised objects later on.