Monday, Jun 11, 2007 5:00 AM

BURLINGTON, Mass., USA, June 12, 2007 - High schools, colleges and universities are increasingly adopting 3D printing to put physical objects into the hands of the students who conceived them, bringing the design education process to its logical conclusion. Rapidly transforming ideas into real-world objects firmly engages developing minds while exposing them to advanced technologies that will propel their careers, say educators.

"Students get an idea, sketch it out, develop it [CAD software], animate it, print it, and then hold it in their hands," says Bruce Weirich, computer drafting instructor at Ontario High School in Mansfield, Ohio, USA. "When they hold it in their hands, they're closing the loop, which really brings the value of the exercise home. Until then, it's all conceptual and virtual. Completing the circle is important. It turns kids on."

Design students at the University of Huddersfield School of Art & Design, UK, first create their designs in SolidWorks®, AutoCAD®, Alias®, 3ds Max® or RhinoTM software. The printer accepts this data and produces a 3D physical model. "Students love watching the 3D printer work, and they love watching their parts come to life," says Chris Charlesworth, technical team leader at the school and manager of the university's 3D Design Workshop. "They're very intrigued by the technology, which allows them to produce parts they wouldn't have the time or skills to craft by hand."

3D printing also benefits students at Staten Island Technical High School in New York. "It gives students a better understanding of their design," says CAD coordinator and professional engineer Frank Mazza. "What looks good on the computer screen doesn't always translate to the real world, so 3D printing is enhancing and reinforcing students' CAD and conceptual skills. There's just something very valuable from an educational standpoint in holding an object in your hands at the end of the design process - especially for engineering-oriented students anchored in the physical world. Overall, it's a distinct advantage for our students to be able to use technology that is important and current in industry. Students leave us smarter and better prepared to succeed in their careers."

These examples are among hundreds taking place at the more than 750 secondary schools, vocational/technical schools, colleges and universities around the world that have invested in Z Corporation 3D printers.

Z Corporation printers are the device of choice for schools that value:

  • Speed - Z Corporation printers are the fastest 3D printers, which is critical in producing an entire class's models for a final project, for example.
  • Color - Z Corporation makes the only 3D printers capable of printing models in multiple colors, heightening a model's appeal and ability to inform.
  • Affordability - In addition to their low price, Z Corporation 3D printers have the lowest operating costs, important for every institution on a fixed budget.
  • Versatility - Z Corporation printers are ideal for uses beyond creating manufacturing prototypes. Architecture students can create building models. Geography/geology and civil engineering students can create landscape models. Medical students can create models of body parts. Art students can create digitally generated sculptures.

"The educational impact of 3D printing is powerful and multifaceted," said Kevin Lach, Z Corp.'s vice president of marketing. "Students receive the same benefit that any designer receives - seeing, touching, investigating a real physical manifestation of the idea they've conceived, engaging them more deeply in their learning. Students also get the benefit of learning to use advanced technologies that most prominent manufacturers use today. And younger students get inspired. They understand, in a very literal way, that their dreams can become reality."

Education's adoption of 3D printing follows a wider trend in manufacturing. Annual sales of rapid prototyping systems have been escalating at a 37 percent average annual clip over the past 18 years, driven most recently by the popularity of 3D printing systems, according to Terry Wohlers, president of the Wohlers Associates consulting firm.

Z Corporation backs its 3D printers in education with 3D printing curricula, extended warranties, discounts, assistance in applying for grants, student design contests and case studies modeling best practices around the world.

About Z Corporation

Z Corporation makes products that enable users to capture, edit, and print 3D data with unprecedented speed, ease, versatility and affordability. These products include the world's fastest high-definition 3D printers — machines that produce physical 3D models from digital data in full color - and uniquely portable 3D scanners - handheld machines that digitize 3D surfaces in real time. Z Corp. technology is enabling a wide range of applications in manufacturing, architecture, civil engineering, reverse engineering, geographic information systems (GIS), medicine and entertainment.

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