Two years ago, Andrew Trexler saw an advertisement for a desktop 3D printer. His curiosity led him to explore the technology until he suddenly found himself engrossed in it. Now, as a third year electromechanical engineering student at Penn State, Andrew is involved with 3D printing on multiple levels. In addition to owning several machines of his own, Andrew works at the university’s interdisciplinary 3D printing lab, hosts children’s 3D printing workshops at a local incubation area, and supplements his studies as a 3D Specialist at a local tech firm.

From his vast industry research and hands-on experience, Andrew says 3D Systems is his top pick for 3D printing. “3DS has by far the best process and materials in the 3D printing market,” Andrew says. “For SLA and MultiJet 3D printing (Andrew uses the ProJet 3510), there are less moving parts in the printers which leads to better consistency in product. In terms of Plastic Jet Printing, the large build size of the CubePro is a big deal in the engineering world, not to mention its precision and consistency.”

After learning about Andrew’s passion for 3D printing we followed up with him to learn more about the programs he has been hosting at his friend’s blossoming incubation area, working with children to promote critical thinking and problem solving through application-based problem sets. In his workshops, Andrew provides the children with broad strokes of information, outlining their goal and a list of constraining factors. From there, he lets his students’ minds roam free. “I think we underestimate children’s brains when it comes to problem solving,” Andrew says. “They’re very, very good.

Using 3D printing as his key methodology, Andrew has been able to teach kids about sophisticated concepts such as tolerance and coaxial movement with examples that not only stick with them, but that they create for themselves and can hold and explain. But for Andrew, the magic is not in what the children come up with in specific terms, but rather the development of the necessary mindset to invent. “That’s where 3D printing has an advantage,” Andrew says. “You have instant access to a lab setting like never before.” According to Andrew, this is the biggest benefit: “I love that you can have an idea, print it out, redesign it and print it again, better. Especially considering how costly it’s historically been to create in terms of both time and money.”

Side-by-side with the children’s excitement for 3D printing is the anticipation-filled trial of patience that accompanies the printing process. “We live in an instant gratification society,” Andrew says. “Most people don’t think about how things are made and what goes into that process. For example, you could take 36 days to produce the machinery to make your product, or you could just hit print. Giving a side-by-side contrast usually helps.”

To learn how you can incorporate 3D printing into your curriculum to reap the same benefits of an instant lab setting and hands-on experience, visit www.3dsystems.com/education